8 Years Later And HIV Still Does NOT Define Me

Imagine being 24 years old and finally being able to smell the new “soft and independent” era in your life just months after graduating from undergrad. Still walking through life unknowing of its harsher realities while falling deeper in love with the love of your life. Then, BOOM! An unexpected turn of events happens, turning your life upside down. The turn of events being, you receive news from a stranger that, You Are HIV Positive! 

Well, yeah that’s my story. It really happened like that. Hi, I’m Johneri’O Scott, and I am still NOT HIV! 

In 2015, after graduating from Francis Marion University in December 2014, I found out a couple of months later that I had contracted HIV. I was on the verge of starting my independent life. Still trying to figure out what I really wanted to do. One day I woke up with mosquito-looking bites on my legs. I have always been healthy, played sports, got yearly check ups with the doctors and all that good stuff. But this time, I didn’t know what was going on. 

A week into having these mosquito-looking bites on my legs, and as they continued to spread, I took some allergy medicine and consulted my mom about options. Then, one night I was up on social media and saw a commercial about HIV and the importance of getting tested. They were talking about night sweats (I had that). They were talking about breakouts on your body (hmmmm, I think I have that). And then they asked the question, “Have you had an HIV test?” After seeing that ad I decided to take a trip to the clinic and get tested.

So I went to the clinic the next morning. No appointment, just walked in. When I got brought back, the tester administered the finger stick. After about a minute, my life changed forever. The tester looked at me and said “Your test is positive for HIV.” At that moment I thought the tester was making a joke so I laughed and asked “Really?” With no hesitation he responded yes and that he was going to give me some time to myself. 

As he walked out of the room, I immediately began thinking that I was going to die. Also, what was I going to tell my partner who at the time was in the car waiting for me to be done? A few minutes went by, the tester came back in and said he was going to get me started on meds and take me across the stree to see the doctor. (Yes, it happened that quickly.)

 While all of this was happening I was still processing that I was going to die and asking myself how was I going to tell my mom and partner. Walking out into the lobby and passing everyone waiting for their test, I hid my face as if they knew I was HIV positive. As I approached the door to the doctor’s office my partner texted me, “Are you okay?” and I responded, “Yes, it’s just taking a little longer.” He responded, “Okay,” then I asked him in response “Are you sure you don’t want to get a test?” He responded, “No.” So, I saw the doctor, got on medication, got my first appointment date, got labs done, and headed home. 

For the first three months, I didn’t know what to do. I lost my appetite, was constantly stressed, and waiting to die. Looking back today I believe that I made myself sick by thinking negative thoughts and not being as educated on HIV as I should have. Until one day, I woke up and told myself, if I die, I want to die living my life unapologetically and doing everything I’ve always wanted to do. Eight years later and counting, I am still NOT HIV and living my best life. 

Growing up I didn’t hear much about HIV or sex. All I ever heard was to use condoms or don’t have sex at all. What about if you were to have sex without condoms, what you should do; what could possibly happen to you; what are your options? Those are the conversations I should have heard growing up from family members or sex-ed teachers. 

Contracting HIV taught me strength I didn’t know I had. Having to mentally build myself up, educate myself while educating my support group, all while tackling a daily routine and telling myself that I would make it; it was tough. My relationship with my partner at the time didn’t last. I didn’t have the urge for sex. The thought of someone kissing me, touching me, or even liking me made me sick to my stomach for a year and a half. Pushing myself to learn about HIV, and to ask my doctor questions taught me so much and helped me to overcome HIV and the stigma that is placed on people living with HIV. 

Eight years later and counting, I am still NOT HIV, living my best life, working as an HIV Advocate, AND ENGAGED! 

If I can tell anyone living with HIV one thing, it is to keep going. Life is just beginning for you. You have to stay educated on the trends of HIV, ask questions to your provider or a support partner/group, and not stress. The stigma on HIV is false and you are not alone.

About the author

Johneri'O Scott

HIV Advocate | Host of Second Chance | Author of “Making It In Media”
As seen on VICE, Wild’N Out, Editorial Now, THEM, Walgreens Partner, etc.
📍 Atlanta