I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

There Are Still Bad Days...

(***Note: This post and the previous one "Transactional Sex" were written more than a week ago. Yes, I am fine. No, I am not going to kill myself. Simply expressing thoughts from one of my bad days...)

You all think I am so strong and brave and positive.
You think I'm handling this so well and doing amazing things.

Meanwhile, I sit here staring at nothing.
It is April... I have been diagnosed and back here for 7 months.
And what have I done? Nothing.
Where am I going? Nowhere.
I say "there is only forward".
But in reality, I can't move on.
I'm stuck.
The time has flown by me.
The days keep passing by and the world goes on around me.
But I don't notice.
I am only half living.


  1. We all have our bad days, and you are most certainly allowed yours. I hope that your blog is helping you with those bad days.

    Seven months may sound like a long time, but most likely (unless there is a cure) you will live with this for the rest of your life. Which I hope makes these seven months MINISCULE comparatively. (((HUGS)))

  2. I cannot type or talk lately. I hope my ramblings make sense(allergy meds!).

  3. Hey, Jessica!

    I am a very new RPCV and wanted to write and send you my heartfelt thanks and gratitude for having the courage and compassion to share your journey with fellow PCVs and the world at large. Your country visitor list was incredibly impressive!

    I went through a very scary and challenging period during the end of my service, involving a situation similar to your own. I too, took part in a consensual what I thought what I thought was a low risk sexual activity (unprotected oral sex) while relaxing in the capital. Following the activity I began to replay it in my head, began to worry and realized that it probably wasn't the smartest thing I had ever decided. I started researching the risks of the activity, WebMDing myself to no end and sifting through endless helpful,not so helpful and down right scary websites. I randomly encountered your blog via a PC Facebook post during one of my highest moments of stress and fear. While reading your blog and personal story definitely scared me and made me nervous, it also gave me the courage to seek help and get tested. Your accurate and straight forward presentation of HIV/AIDS information and resources were a Godsend.

    I got the test, which came back negative, and was then told I'd have to repeat the testing at the 1 month, three month and to be completely certain six month mark. The initial relief of testing negative was then replaced with extreme anxiety, worry and what ifs about the coming months. Having had a history of anxiety, I felt like I was on the verge of a complete mental breakdown, or worse.

    I went back to your blog and read through each of your entries and began to realize that an HIV+ diagnosis is not the complete end of the world and that hope remains... most importantly I read about your sessions with a counselor/therapist talking about the diagnosis your plans for the future, etc. I shortly their after requested to meet with a PC psychologist who, same as with your experience, was completely amazing and gave me strategies to deal with the fear, anxiety, worry and guilt the next several months would bring. It brought me back from the edge and helped me to take on the following months pro-actively and with courage, just like the courage and optimism you so generously share on your blog.

    I got through the trying months with therapy, support from fellow PCVs, PCMOs, some anxiety pills (highly recommended) and through following your journey. I was lucky and blessed enough to receive a negative test result over three months after the incident and COSed with the good news. I honestly don't think I would have made it, mentally or continuing my service, if it had not been for finding your courageous blog, calming and inspiring words, and direct and sincere of the fear, discrimination and worry you feel on a daily basis... but more importantly the hope and optimism you maintain for your future.

    I will get tested again at my six month mark, and while the test will still be scary, I know that action, education and prevention are the best tools in avoiding the dark side of this unfortunate health issue in our society. While I have not fully experienced what you are going through on a daily basis, I want you to know that you have inspired me to educate my friend and peers by sharing your story, have inspired me to get involved combating the stigma and discrimination that surrounds this disease (that affects every race, gender and cross-section of culture) and have inspired me to become an active participant in supporting initiatives that hope to one day cure and eradicate HIV/AIDS.

    I wish you the very best in your journey and will continue following your blog and learning from your posts. I encourage you to stay strong, continue to share honestly and know that you have made a huge and positive difference in the life of this fellow RPCV. God bless and a huge hug of support.

  4. It's normal, and it's healthy, Jess. I went through the same thing while at home. The good news is that this life isn't about us all the time. There are seasons for everything, and God makes everything beautiful in its due time. Thank you for your vulnerability!! Onward.

  5. Hey Jess- I don't want to minimize the feelings you express in this post, but I think it is pretty clear that your blog is already having a strong positive impact in the field of HIV awareness - just look at the number of hits from so many countries!

    It's tough to quantify the impact of such a diffuse educational effort, but there is abundant anecdotal evidence that your story is already making waves.

    Even so of course there are still bad days, and thanks for sharing them with us, too.

    Hugs from an admirer!

  6. extra hugs...give them to the self that existed two weeks ago.

  7. Hi Jessica,

    Firstly, I just wanted to let you know that your story and courage is so inspirational. As far as what you've done, you've educated thousands of people all around the world about HIV, and that is a huge accomplishment. You've made people aware, and your blog is helping to change the way people view other people with HIV. When I first read your blog, I was shocked to learn the you contracted HIV through oral sex. I certainly don't remember reading about that in my Health and Sex Education classes! Because of you, I am now taking extra precautionary measures in protecting myself in all sexual activities. Because of you, I'm telling all of my friends to protect themselves during oral sex.

    Before reading your blog, I didn't know anyone personally with HIV. Even though I don't know you personally, I feel like I can relate to you. I am 25 as well, and have had unprotected oral sex. I keep thinking to myself, I could have been you. While I admit that I have had negative connotations of people with HIV, your story has helped me to put a name, a face, and a person like me to someone with HIV. I empathize with your story.

    After reading this post, I want you to know that you are not alone in experiencing bad days. I am currently unemployed, and I am in no way comparing that to having HIV, but I know what it feels like to watch the days pass by and watch the world going on around you. I feel like things will get better once I find a job, because it will give me a better sense of purpose. I read previously that you were looking for a new job as well. Just wanted to let you know that you have already have a purpose Jessica. You've already done amazing things by sharing your story. Your entitled to your bad days, but always remember that you are making strides in changing the way people think! I see so many great things in your future.

    Thanks so much for sharing your story, and I look forward to reading more in the future.

  8. Jess, thanks so much for your blog and I wish you strength during your bad days. It is easy to judge but those of us who have been lonelier than lonely, as a PCV (I was in Namibia), know what it's like to use sex in a transactional sense, in that we women may think we are getting closer to the guy, perhaps closer to a commitment, etc. When I was in Namibia I had sex with a fellow PCV for a year, purely transactionally, as he was engaged to a woman back home. For both of us, it was a way to be human and close, and to stave off the loneliness. You and I, and the other PCVs, know what it's like to be in a foreign country. I never knew oral sex was so risky and I agree that it was never clear from the training. Thank you for your honesty. I am like you: educated, sex ed, PC training, not promiscuous... but Peace Corps changed me too. Your story has touched my life. I wish you all the best.