When I first found out I was HIV positive, it was a blow. Living with HIV was like walking a tightrope. It was a case of constantly trying to balance hiding it from everyone, while trying to stay connected, but shrinking from the fear of rejection and stigma. At first, I felt like I had to hide my status like a secret tucked away in my heart. But as I learned to love and accept myself, I realised that my status is a part of me, like a patch on my sleeve that tells my story. A story I refuse to be ashamed of.
Dating is a difficult aspect of living with HIV that every positive person has to navigate. It’s like a constant negotiation, trying to find someone who will accept all parts of you, including your status. When I finally mustered the courage to disclose my status to a potential partner, it felt like taking a leap of faith because I really didn’t trust that I was loveable. Some were accepting and willing to walk the tightrope with me, while others turned away. But with each disclosure, I felt lighter and freer. It was like a weight had been lifted, making room for more love and connection. But most importantly, through the process, I grew to accept myself. Right now, I am on dating Apps and I focus on connection, building a friendship and disclosing honestly.
Living with HIV has also taught me the importance of community. I understand now how much people can extend their love and support when you need it most, the people in my life lift me up when I stumble, and I’m grateful for that. Some people have been like anchors, keeping me steady and grounded amid the stigma. Others have been like balloons, lifting me up and reminding me of the beauty in life. And some have been like mirrors, reflecting back the strength and resilience I didn’t know I had.
Disclosing my status to friends was like revealing a part of myself that I had kept hidden for too long. The part of me that was so isolated from having to keep my status a secret, was finally ready to let others in. Some were surprised, others were curious, and a few were scared, I lost a really good friend that I loved and cherished but I suppose I learnt a hard lesson about one-sided relationships. Luckily the ones who stuck around helped me to become more resilient with love and support, and are the ones who have become like family. They help me stay balanced, and in turn, I help them with their own struggles because I am mentally present to do so.
Living with HIV is not easy, as the stigma owns a large portion of your identity, but it has taught me to embrace my vulnerability and use it as a strength. Facing the stigma is both terrifying and exhilarating, terrifying because there is still so much misinformation out there. Exhilarating because I feel purposeful in letting other positive people know they are not alone. It’s taught me to be honest and authentic, to seek out the support and resources I need, and to cherish the moments of love and joy that make the journey worthwhile.