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.
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