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.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

National HIV Testing Day- Tomorrow, June 27th!

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day. I am urging you, daring you, and pleading with you all to go get tested. No matter who you are, how old you are, what kind of relationships you have or have not had, what risks you have or have not taken, you should get tested. HIV does not discriminate. HIV can affect anyone, anywhere, at any time- no matter your age, race, sexuality, profession, intelligence, etc. If you have had sexual contact of any kind with another human being, you should get tested. Do not live in fear or ignorance. Take a stand for yourself and your life. 

Use the link or widget below to find testing sites near you:


Sunday, June 23, 2013

My First Dating Disclosure- Continued

So I went home that night with my nerves calmed and quieted, but definitely not gone. I was relieved that he took the news so well and did not freak out. I even thanked him for not slapping me (I do have a friend that has been slapped when he disclosed his status to a girl). However, I still had no idea where this left us. I had no idea what would come next. Maybe he wouldn't talk or hang out with me again? Maybe we would hang out the next time and he would tell me that he still liked me as a friend, but just wouldn't be able to date me? There was nothing to do but just wait and see.

Somehow, even with all these things in my head, I ended up sleeping great that night. I guess the whole event had just exhausted me- physically, mentally, and emotionally.

As I arrived to work the next morning, I received a good morning text from him and a wish of good luck on my first day of summer school. Alright. Smile on my face. This was a good sign.

Then, as I was driving home from work, I received another text. He was done working for the day, and wanted me to please bring over the HIV information/literature I had collected for him. Wow. Awesome. This was a great sign. I was so pleased that he actually cared enough about it to take the initiative to ask me for the information. He wanted to read it.

So, I raced home, grabbed the folder I had prepared, looked through it one last time, wondering if there was anything else I should add in there. This was a big deal. This could make it or break it. I had to give him some good stuff to start with. (What did I include? NY State 100 HIV Questions and Answers booklet; various Fact Sheets from Aidsinfo.net; a power point presentation on HIV Basics from a conference I attended; recent study results on Undetectable Viral Loads and Serodiscordant couples; and about 5 key posts printed out from my blog)

I didn't know what to expect when I arrived at his house. I was ready to just drop the stuff off and leave, but again, things went better than that. I went inside and we sat down on the couch and started talking- but not about HIV. It was just like normal, except for the folder sitting on the couch between us. Eventually he asked me what I brought for him. I flipped through the folder and just quickly showed what each thing was. He seemed excited about it and put the folder in his room to look at and read later. Then we sat there and continued talking, this time moving into topics about HIV. I was able to explain a bit more of the factual kind of information. I talked more in depth about my medicine and my numbers and what exactly undetectable meant. He asked a few questions of his own and asked for clarification on a couple things that I had mentioned. It turned out to be a great talk. I didn't have to cry during this talk, I had gotten that out of the way the night before. Now I was free to just be me and share what I knew.

I received a text later that night saying he had read my blog printouts and he was very impressed. I continued to smile.

This all happened a week ago. And we have been hanging out almost every day since then. We have been able to talk openly about it, share our feelings, and discuss various questions/concerns. There have definitely been some awkward moments, but we are both able to admit that this is new to us and we are doing the best we can. It is going to be a continual learning and growing process, for the both of us. I continue to be in awe of his openness, patience, and understanding.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My First Dating Disclosure

I did it!

And I survived.

And he survived.

And it went better than I could have or would have ever anticipated.

So, for all of my planning and preparation and obsession, it finally kind of happened on accident. Well, not on accident, but not as planned either. It turns out that I'm just a little bit too transparent and not at all good at keeping secrets (I know, you all are completely shocked, right?!?!?).

We were of course watching the basketball game at his place. He had just gotten back from a weekend out of town, so we had not seen each other for a few days. We were just laying on the couch catching up and talking about various things. We were having some really good conversation, touching here and there on some more serious topics, taking some risks and sharing things that might not just come up in daily conversations. There was a level of comfort and trust developing there between us and it felt good.

There were a couple of points where I had to avoid a complete answer, promising to give him a better answer "some other night". One of the moments had to do with my ex, because I had mentioned that we were remaining good friends and that there was a "significant reason" for us to remain friends. We had also already had a previous conversation where I could not tell him where/how my ex and I had met, or why we were together (being that my ex and I don't seem like a likely match). This all added up to seem a bit suspicious to him, and he decided that I must have some kind of important secret. He teased me for a minute about my secret, and I kept saying that I would tell him, but not tonight. He asked me if I had a kid that he didn't know about. I laughed and said no. He decided to give up and drop the "secret"... at least for awhile.

Later in our talking, I happened to share that I had a fear of ending up alone. And that made no sense to him, because I was an attractive, intelligent, fun woman, why would I end up alone?!?!? Thus he was reminded of the "secret" again and he figured that it must play a role in this fear of ending up alone.

A couple of minutes later he said he had a question for me, but that I may not like it. He got really nervous and embarrassed and wasn't able to ask it right away.

I asked him "Is your question related to my secret?"
He said "I don't know. It might be or it might not".
Then I asked "Is your question related to sex?"
He said "Yes."

I started panicking inside. I knew what the question was going to be. And I figured that he probably had a good idea of what the answer was going to be. I took a deep breath, snuggled deeper into his chest, and braced myself for what was coming next. I told him to ask his question.

"Do you have any STDs?"

"Yes. And yes that relates to my secret." Breathe. There. It's done. It's started. No going back. There is only forward now. Breathe.

The next couple minutes were hard. I couldn't stop the tears from welling up in my eyes. He didn't say anything. I didn't say anything. We just laid there. The secret was out, but there was so much more to tell. The basketball game was just in the beginning of the 4th quarter. I told him that I was going to talk, but we should wait until the game was over so there would be no distractions. But time was going painfully slow, and it was just too weird, so we eventually decided to talk anyways with the game still on. I told him I had never done this before. I asked him if he was ready.

Then I told him my story, beginning with falling sick in my village, the hospitals and tests, medical evacuation, and then being diagnosed with HIV. I told him about my current health, my numbers, and my medication. I told him about my blog and other advocacy activities I've been involved in. I told him how I met my ex at an HIV conference. I told him he wasn't at any risk from kissing me. I eventually back tracked and told him the story of how I had contracted it in the first place. I told him I had information and literature for him to read, but it was at home, because I hadn't planned for this conversation to happen tonight.

His reaction? It was more of a non-reaction. He didn't really have any questions. He didn't really say much of anything, other than he wasn't completely surprised, as he had started sensing and thinking something along these lines. He said I had made enough references over time to some sort of a secret, that he knew something was going on. He said he would be happy to read whatever information I had for him. He continued to lay there and hold me and hug me and comfort me when I would start to cry a little bit again.

I started to go numb. He was being so nice and comforting. He wasn't freaking out. But the only thing going through my mind was this other blog I had read where the girl was talking about how after she disclosed, the guys would be all nice and comforting and hug her that night, but then never talk to her again after that. So here we are laying there, and he's holding me, and I'm thinking "This is too familiar. He's just being nice. But this is it. I might as well say goodbye now."

So I got up to say goodbye and leave. And then the most amazing thing happened. He pulled me back down on the couch with him so that he could kiss me. And not just a peck. It was a real kiss, and it felt like he meant it.

To be continued...

Friday, June 14, 2013

A Couple AIDS Jokes

A friend of mine e-mailed me the other day in response to my "Awkward Magic Johnson moment". He proceeded to tell me of one of his own awkward moments recently. In a college class, someone in a role of authority decided to tell a couple jokes...

"How do you give CPR to an AIDS patient?"  He started stomping on an imaginary person on the ground with his foot, and blowing in the air from a standing position.

"The AIDS diet is pancakes because they can be slid under a closed door."

This friend of mine said that in response to each joke,  "A room full of my friends cheered and applauded. Again riotous laughter from my peers."

I do not share these jokes with you so that you can go out and use them in your own social circles. I share them in order to call attention to some of the mean and hurtful things that can be and are being said. Can you imagine being an HIV+ person sitting in a college class, where the teacher and students (who you expect to be educated and have a little bit of class) are jointly making these kinds of jokes and remarks? Yeah, of course they don't know that you are sitting there and have HIV. They don't know that it may be personally hurtful to you. But that's the point! They don't know! None of us can know for sure who in our company may be HIV+, or may have a family member or close friend who is HIV+ . So, watch what you say! It is just ignorant and in poor taste.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dating Update 2

More dates with the negative guy from Kickball... including more dinners out and in, watching the basketball games, hanging out at the pool, breakfast, and doing an oil painting together (yes seriously).

I'm not sure what else to say. Things are going good. We get along well. Too well. To the point that after an entire day together having breakfast and then hanging out at the pool, I walked into my house and cried. I cried because I'm having such a good time, and because I have absolutely no faith that it is going to last or lead to anything. I cried because I feel like I'm having panic/anxiety attacks the past few days just thinking about telling him. I cried because I'm scared and I don't want to have to deal with this...

P.S. It is my Birthday today. I am 27.

                        (We celebrated my B-Day on Saturday night by going out dancing!)

Friday, June 7, 2013


Just wanted to share an awkward moment with you...

So here I am on a date, relaxing and watching the basketball game last night... and during halftime my date says, "You know who that broadcaster is, right?" (he's kind of messing with me because I don't know all that much about basketball).

So, I'm like, "ummmmm... nope... can't think of anyone. Give me a hint."

So he says, "AIDS."

And I go into an instant state of silent shock and a "Oh ****" in my head.

Taking my silence as ignorance, he says, "Magic Johnson! Come on, you gotta know that!"


Learn About Magic Johnson Here

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Dating Update 1

I promised you I would keep you all updated on my "adventures" with dating....

Well, I have gone out on a few dates with a few people in the last couple weeks.

I went on a date with a guy from the HIV dating site. He was a nice guy, and it was nice to hang out with someone without having to worry about any secrets or judgements or anything like that. It was also nice to be able to discuss/compare/share our stories and various feelings and experiences so far with HIV. Right now we are just keeping in contact as friends.

I then went on about 3 dates with a guy from my kickball team (someone I have known for about 5 months now). We had fun going out for dinner, drinks, the beach, and hanging out at my house. We talked a lot and went through all the normal "getting to know you" conversations. I felt uncomfortable a few times as the conversation steered too close to coming back from Africa or how I met/got together with my ex (as those things are both related to the HIV). After hanging out a few times, we decided to just be friends, as there is actually a VERY big age difference between us and we decided it was just too weird.

Most recently, I went on 2 dates with another guy from my kickball team (I've also known him for about 5 months). We had a very eventful 2 dates, including homemade dinner, drinks, yardsaling, canoeing, dinner out, casino, and relaxing watching the basketball game. We have hit it off pretty well so far. Again, there have been some uncomfortable/awkward moments where I feel like I have to tiptoe around things to omit HIV related topics. It is a horrible feeling to be sitting there trying your best to get to know someone and let them get to know you, but the whole time feeling guilty because you are hiding something HUGE. Well, regardless of how guilty I was feeling, we still had a very enjoyable time and we ended up cuddling and kissing....which I am now having mixed feelings about (as I really did not intend to even kiss anybody before I tell them my "secret").

So there you have the details about what has gone on on the outside. Now, for a little more insight to the inside....

As I mentioned, with both of the negative guys, there were multiple times where it felt awkward and uncomfortable, or where I felt I needed to change the direction of the conversation in order to avoid certain topics. They of course want to know all about Peace Corps and Africa (but every time I talk about Africa, all it reminds me of is contracting HIV). They want to know where/how I met my ex (at an HIV conference, but I can't say that). They want to know why I don't accept friend requests on Facebook (because none of my new friends, kickball team, or co-workers know my status and I don't want them to find out). And so on...

So, the whole time I am with them, and when I am at home on my own, my thoughts have overwhelmingly been stuck on how and when I should disclose. I want to wait long enough to make sure that I really like the person and the person really likes me, and that there is an honest intention of the relationship going somewhere. I also want to wait until I know that I can trust the person with the information, regardless of whether they stay with me or not. This is especially complicated because the guys so far are from the kickball team, and I definitely do not want the information to be passed to the whole team, nor to one of my co-workers who is also one the team, which would then give it a chance to be passed on to my workplace. But at the same time, the longer I wait the more guilty and unsettled I feel. I hate hiding things. I hate lying to people. I hate feeling guilty just because I kissed someone before telling them.

I want to know WHEN it is going to be the right time. But I don't think there is a clear answer. I don't feel like it is going to be something I can schedule or plan for in advance. I think I am just going to have to take it day by day and conversation by conversation, and when I suddenly feel like it is right, I will just have to somehow find the guts to go for it.

Stay tuned for more updates...
                            (getting all dressed up for my friends' wedding last weekend)