Scared, ashamed, lost, alone, frightened, anxious.
These are only among the ways I felt once I learned I used to be HIV positive on that spring day of 2011. Coping with this news was something that became a day by day struggle. They say that life is about decisions, and right away, I felt suffocated by the number of choices that were forthcoming in the times ahead.
Who should I or could I check with about this? How would I get treatment? Should I start treatment instantly or wait? How would the remainder of my life be impacted by my diagnosis?
In the Black community, we do a superb job of coping with things on our own and never asking for help. I later learned that this isn’t all the time the healthiest way of living matters. I might ultimately succumb to that pressure, even without anyone directly telling me I needed to figure this out by myself. Spending my time worrying concerning the end result of what would occur if I shared this personal information caused me to bury it deeply. I did nevertheless make a choice that I might not let HIV define me or what was possible for my life.
“I did nevertheless make a choice that I might not let HIV define me or what was possible for my life.”
— Tony Jermin
Slowly, I put one foot in front of the opposite and did the work of finding a health care provider for help who walked me through the suitable steps towards getting my medical expenses covered through programs available to the community, because what they don’t inform you is how expensive HIV treatment is. Thank God for every glimmer of hope along the best way, since it was an extended agonizing road to securing treatment for myself, especially because it wasn’t covered by my insurance on the time. To at the present time, I still don’t know what gave me the strength to push through. Reflecting back, I feel my will to live and never only live but thrive, had something to do with it. I had hopes, dreams, and aspirations for myself and HIV wasn’t going to stop me from achieving those things at any cost. I encourage folx to work out their why. What is your reason to live? Hold on to that and let or not it’s your guiding light, because I’ve learned that what you desire in life, you deserve.
“What is your reason to live? Hold on to that and let or not it’s your guiding light, because I’ve learned that what you desire in life, you deserve.”
— Tony Jermin
If there may be one thing I might return in time and tell myself, it will be that you usually are not alone and it’s going to be okay. As the times, weeks, months, and years passed by, the more confident I became in my status. I had change into undetectable and fewer bothered with knowing my very own truth. This doesn’t mean that it wasn’t always behind my mind. It absolutely affected my approach to relationships and sex.
I went through phases of not caring that I wasn’t vocal about my status, to caring a lot that it strongly impacted my mental health and the way I navigated those relationships. It wasn’t until 10 years after my diagnosis that I might feel completely free. This happened because I created a platform called Surface Level Podcast with two of my best friends, where now we have curious conversations concerning the Black, Queer experience.
It was through this vehicle that I might gain the courage to talk my truth on my terms. In an episode entitled, Undetectable, I shared my HIV story.It gave me the chance to place my very own narrative out into the world in a way that allowed me to release myself of the stigma and get on the opposite side of fear, to freedom. The journey looks different for everybody, and I encourage anyone reading this who is perhaps going through difficult times to keep fighting for yourself.
I didn’t know I could feel this level of freedom and it’s now a part of my life’s work to assist set others free or to at the very least help others feel seen and fewer alone on this planet.