"I had usually been very safe when it came to having sex, but for the first time in my life, I trusted a partner; that decision changed my life forever. Six weeks and two days after we slept together, I began to wake up in the middle of the night covered in sweat, and when I say covered, I mean it was as though someone had poured water all over me while I was sleeping. I had no idea what was wrong with me, so I googled “night sweats.” The first and only word I remember seeing was HIV. My heart sank, my vision blurred and I put my phone down. I fell back asleep, but when I woke up the next morning, I knew that the night before hadn’t been a dream. I needed to face what had happened, whether it was HIV (I learned that night sweats are a symptom of the seroconversion process), or if there was something else wrong. I needed to settle my heart.
Finally it was time. I went back over to my desk and sat for a minute. I took a few deep breaths and lifted the result page. My test showed two distinct lines, both on the “C” line and the “T” line, which meant I might have HIV. I think that at this point most people are overcome with emotion: sadness, depression, anger, hatred. What filled my head was an overwhelming sense of calm. Maybe I was numb; maybe it was my body’s defense. But to this day the calm is what I remember feeling about the result. I had convinced myself, with this kit, that I was HIV positive.
The next day I went to an AIDS services location here in Austin. I told them that I needed to get a confirmatory test. This entire appointment was a blur, but I remember they told me they would call me in a week and I would come in and we would go over my results.
A week later I walked into the appointment, a little nervous about what would happen. My tester sat me down and trying to have a little chat with me, then he said: “I have received the results of your test. Are you ready to receive them?” I said yes. He said, “According to the Western Blot test, the confirmatory test this office uses, you are HIV positive. Are you OK?”
I thought I was fine. Both the home test and doctor’s office test confirmed I was positive.
When I was diagnosed with HIV, I shut out the outside world. My clothing brand and designing became my way to cope. When I was diagnosed with HIV, my thoughts about the virus changed in a flash. I realized that HIV could affect anyone and everyone. It has no racial, economical, gender or sexual orientation bias. After I dealt with the coping process, I knew that I needed to help other people avoid this situation. We need to educate our youth and through education, rid the world of the stigma surrounding HIV and eventually the disease itself. So this is where I stand today. I am in treatment and adhering to my medicine for 100 percent. I have an undetectable viral load and I am as happy as can be. Soon after my diagnosis I met a guy who would turn out to be the love of my life. He has been nothing but supportive of me and my advocacy efforts. We are a serodiscordant couple: he is negative and we take all necessary precautions to make sure he remains that way. Before being diagnosed, I would have never even thought this would be possible, but HIV isn’t what it was in the ’80s.
What is the one thing about living with HIV that I would change? The stigma. That is the one thing holding us back from ridding the world of this disease."