HIV Diary: What Do You Know?
By Robert Levithan
2005 blows my mind. In 1995, my life expectancy was supposedly about two years and I was unreasonable enough to make a five-year plan. Then, one day in the fall of that year, everything changed: I began taking the cocktail. I had won a lottery. Fast forward to 2005: I have a t-cell count of 895. I am healthy, and I just received an e-mail from the man I am dating saying: You are loved'
Why is this a big deal? Because, I forget: Not that he cares about me, but that I can sit in the surety of what I accurately know: I am fine.
If I had died 10 years ago, I wouldn't have that knowledge in my heart and gut. It is wonderful to be alive in 2005. I have had an entire decade of grace, and I have been working it.
Recently, I returned from three weeks in Brazil'a week traveling with my Brazilian ex to Recife and Olinda in the Northeast, and then two weeks with my American beau in Rio, Parati, and in a magical house built out on the rocks above a cove in Sao Paulo State. Each day was an adventure'in travel and in connecting'culturally, emotionally, and sexually.
When I was 19 I traveled to the Thousand Islands in Canada and made a vow to myself that I would travel abroad every year of my life'and I have (except for 1992, but I'm going to let Hawaii substitute). Going abroad is not what it's about; it's about not wanting to miss my life'to never stop exploring frontiers. Getting on a plane has become routine, but never dull. I have never been complacent, but 20 years living with HIV has upped the ante: Complacency could mean never being fully alive, that the illusion that I could begin to really live in 5 or 10 years became absurd.
I want to savor life and to feel my senses aroused. My goal was to have an interesting life and I have succeeded by being interested in life. So, back to the man in my life. He's HIV-. Which seems not to be a big issue for us, but I wonder if it plays into my fear of abandonment. Will he get scared (why shouldn't he be afraid?) and leave? He probably won't pull out because of HIV. It would be more likely to happen because I forget what I know'that I am fine with him and without him.
Living on with HIV means dealing with all of it: The thrill and glamour of traveling the globe, the intriguing and gritty challenges of love and relationship, the losses that come with time.
What a privilege it all is.