Living with HIV

Today is World AIDS Day, and I thought I would share a little of my own experience with you…

In July of 2000, I started going to the doctor because I was feeling run down, had a persistent cough, and other mild ailments.. I was seen on a weekly basis as new “symptoms” would pop up..just sick.

Finally, after running test after test, they found that I had “thrush” which is a type of yeast infection and wanted to do another kind of test. The wanted to test me for HIV. I thought, “what the hell, I haven’t done anything, so why not?” I got a call from the nurse, making sure that I was going to be at my next appt., which in itself was a bit odd.

As I walked into the office, on the day before my birthday, August 27th, I noticed there were 2 other people present. I was ushered in, asked to sit down. After I had done so, I was told, “your test results are back, and they’ve confirmed that you’re HIV+”, as thoughts of my children, and my family raced through my head, my first question was, “when am I going to die?”.

They said that they needed to do further testing, on not just me, but on my husband and children too. We (my husband and I) took our children in, where we were all given blood tests and told we’d get results in a couple of weeks.

Needless to say, the waiting was unbearable.

Finally, we got a phone call. The children showed no sign of the virus! My husband’s status was not disclosed to me, however, and he has never gotten results. I however, was told that not only was I HIV+, but I was considered “full blown”.

I have AIDS.

Now, for those of you who don’t know the difference, as I didn’t back then, in a nutshell, you have good cells in your body that combat that make up your immune system, the CD4 cells.. or “T-Cells”. In a “normal” person, the cell count for those ranges anywhere from 500 to 1600, once an HIV+ person’s CD4 cell count goes BELOW 200, they are given the AIDS diagnosis, and no matter how high their CD4 count may get, they will ALWAYS have that same AIDS diagnosis. The CD4 cells are most important in the immune system because they protect all of us from getting what they call “opportunistic infections” such as pneumonia and other infections, and in fact, these opportunistic infections are what kill most HIV/AIDS patients.

When I received my results, my CD4 cell count was 6. The next couple of months were torture. I wanted to end what little life I had. I ended up in the hospital with pneumonia .. then meningitis. I was released from the hospital by my doctor simply to go home and die.

Then a miracle happened.

The county health nurse had gone to the hospital to visit me, and rushed to my house when she’d found I’d been released. She loaded me into her car, where she took me to a different doctor. There was no wait at his office, as he took one look at me, talked to my nurse for a moment, and I was loaded into an ambulance.

After being admitted to the hospital, Dr. David Wheeler had me fed via IV. and was able to bring up my strength again. Two weeks later, I was allowed home. I had people coming to me talking about hospice care and yes, I could bring my cat, Jazz (who had not left my side throughout the whole ordeal).. but Dr. Wheeler had other plans.

He started me in a clinical trial of a combination of drugs, (my HIV cocktail) .. and literally saved my life. I had lost over 100 pounds in 6 months, was severely anemic, and just.. sick. He saw me every week, watched my health improve, and once the clinical trial was over, became my primary physician.

He said, that he’d never seen someone come back from where I was. He truly is “God’s right hand” and my angel.

Years have passed, I moved out of state and am under another doctor’s care, but I will never forget him; I owe him my life.

I am a person LIVING WITH AIDS .. 14 years later, and although it’s still a struggle for me, and I have developed other health problems, I’m still here.

So, if you ask “why is WORLD AIDS DAY so important?” I’ll tell you… There are still people living with, and dying from HIV/AIDS.. thousands and thousands of people around the world and we CAN make a difference.

The difficult part is.. talking about it. If I can open my heart to all of you here, why can’t you open your minds to discussion.

STOP THE STIGMA.

STAND UP, FIGHT AIDS.

Thank you.. Blessed Be.

Moonie … Stacy

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