Russian Roulette vs. Confidence and Grace: Life with HIV

Hi Zoe,

I can’t believe I’m writing to you; I’ve never done this before. I live in a small town in England. My mate turned me onto your stories in the book ‘Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys’ and I’ve since read more of your stories. I’ve wanted your life and thought when I got clean, I'd be able to start writing and move to London. But everything has gone wrong. and I’m desperate. I’m twenty years old and HIV positive. My father is strict and doesn’t know I’m sick with the virus. I feel fine – I don’t feel sick. My mum died years ago when I was young. My doctors want me to go on medicine, but I can’t stay at home and hide this from my dad who will probably disown me. He goes through my room all the time searching for drugs. I was a smack addict for five years; I’ve been clean a few months. I want to kill myself. My life is over. No one will ever want me. My boyfriend OD'd – that is when I got clean. I’m all alone and can’t even look in the mirror. I’m so depressed; I never felt so empty. I think I threw my entire life away. No one will miss me; everyone I know is strung out or has died. You’re so lucky you didn’t get the virus. How did you not get sick?

— Fiona

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Dear Fiona,

Thank you for reaching out to me. First, I must stress that you are not a leper or disgusting because you have contracted HIV. There are many young people living successful, happy, fulfilled lives with this virus. It’s not a death sentence. You must seek support groups where you will meet other young people like yourself. Please listen to your doctors. In England you have access to some of the best medicine in the world and it's free.

We all are dealt different cards. This is yours. It is not the end. Look at it as something that will make you stronger, and take advantage of the positive. Maybe you can speak to young people about not using drugs and what is ahead if they continue. It sounds like you have a vast amount of wisdom to share with others.

I have a strong feeling your strength will be in helping others; you will gain confidence and grace in giving. Be grateful you still have a wonderful life ahead of you. There are plenty of people who enter successful relationships with HIV. Please be honest with any future love and always use condoms. Never lie, because you will be playing Russian roulette with another’s life.

Best, Zoe

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