My Letter to HIV: A Letter From Valynn

Dear HIV,

You have been with me for almost 27 years, but I am still not used to you or comfortable with you. You came into my life when I was only 20 years old. You snuck into my life without warning; like a thief in the night. You lived with me for four years before I even knew you were there. When I found out about you, you were already swimming through my veins. I was scared; no one knew too much about you. You seemed to come out of nowhere but you struck hard and fast. There were no medications to help me; there were no tests to see how much you had already ravaged my body. Shit, there wasn't even doctors who were willing to see me. Everyone was scared of what I might do to them. No one heard my cries of horror, pain, and sadness. Every time I watched the news, I learned how you had killed another. You had no mercy for anyone. The "medical community" told me I had 3 years to live. What was I to do? I tried to continue with my life, but my fear of you and what you might do to me was overwhelming. Somewhere along the line, I decided if I was dying, I was going to go out with a bang. I chose to drink more, party more, and drown my pain. You see, my mother would not even kiss me anymore; she was afraid to touch me; all because of you! You snuck into my life and stole my faith, my dreams, and my goals.

Every girl grows up hoping to have a career, to have a family, to have a life, and you stole that from me. You stole everything I believed in. You made me ashamed of who I was. Afraid of what my future, if I had one, might be. Fearful of what you may do to others if I dared to let them into my life. I hate you and everything about you. Eleven years ago, you almost had me; you almost killed me. My lack of medical care and lack of care for myself let you control my body. I wasn't rich enough to afford the medication to control you and not poor enough to qualify for government care. I was left to die, to die alone because no one close to me knew how to help me. They were all still too scared to care. I felt as if I wasn’t worth saving. I suffered alone.

I witnessed you kill so many of my friends; I watched them die an incredibly horrible death. You stole their dignity; you stole everything from those you touched. No one was spared your wrath. For more than 20 years, I have witnessed your destruction not only in my own life but also in the lives of millions of people. You don't care where you go, who you hurt, or how many you kill. And you don't just kill the human body you kill the human spirit long before the body dies.

You have made my life so chaotic, so complicated. You screwed everything up. I have taken so much medication to try to keep you in check, hundreds, no, thousands of pills. And it sucks, you suck. The medicine is almost as bad for me as you are. Before I can make any decision or choice in my life, I have to think about you first. I have to think about you in everything I do. Before I let someone into my life, I must talk about you. I cannot love someone without you screwing everything up. So many precautions have to be taken just to physically love someone. You know, after 27 years there are still those who reject me even on a friendship level. People avoid talking to me or hugging me, only because they are scared of you. I have dreams that I am afraid to pursue, it would be too complicated because of you. I have to think of you in everything I do.

I would have to say that the worst thing you did to me was steal my chance of having a baby of my own. I was led to believe that if I had a child surely my child would also have you. I also thought I would die before my child had a chance to grow up. I didn't want to bring a child into this world that would have to suffer with you. I didn’t want to bring a child into this world that would have to watch me die. However, the truth is I could have had a child. I could have a teenager right now. You stole that from me. I could be "mommie" or mom right now. But I can’t get stuck on what could have been, it hurts too much to focus on it. I still don’t want to feel the pain you try to inflict on me.

With all the pain you have caused me, with all the pain you will cause me, I have found a way to "live" with you. I have found a way to have faith, not fear my future, but to embrace today. I surrender and accept that fact that you might always be with me. I am powerless over you and what might happen. My life has been and may become, again, unmanageable because of you. But I will not let you stop me from living. I will not let you stop my dreams. I am prepared to fight. I don't have to be afraid anymore. There are many things I can do to slow your destruction; to lessen the pain. You may be able to damage my body, but I will not let you damage my spirit. I will not hide from you. You cannot have that power over me. I will not let you.