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Emptiness.

That’s what I felt when I learned my HIV status.

I was 23, don’t think I flatter myself, but I’m aslender young man. I do not appear different than my peers.

My life was going well. Many friends, warm family relationships, a good job, love – the most important thing. A calm, pleasant life. What could be better?

But no. All this must have been replaced with the feeling ofemptiness.

On May 6, 2014 I received a call:

– In your blood test HIV antibodies were found. I’m sorry.

And the emptiness began. I was going to work, sitting with my friends, but I wasn’t there. I had no thoughts, no words, no emotions, no desire. The emptiness wrapped me from the tips of my hair to the end of my toes.

I had never been afraid of HIV/AIDS. I didn’t get special education on HIV in school, in the university or at home. I knew that such people existed, but it was far from me since I didn’t have acquaintances with HIV/AIDS, and neither my acquaintances did. But it turned out to be very close and I’m notprotected from it.

The emptiness was replaced with anger, resentment, hatred, disgust towards both me and my environment.

I hated myself, I totally hated myself, from the bottom of my soul. I couldn’t think of me or look at me without hatred. I abhorred me. I was angry with myself and others. I hated everyone. I was ashamed as “HIV cannot touch good people.” I was afraid to be isolated, who would communicate with someone who is HIV positive?

I asked my partner to break up.

– Is there any reason?

– I’m HIV positive

He didn’t want to break up and said that my HIV status is not a reason. But a few days later we broke up and it turned out that it was a reason. At that time, I also wouldn’t continue the relationship if my partner had been HIV positive.

I had never thought about how I should treat somebody who has HIV, how their life changes, how the disease increases the desire of having babies, like the fight against the risk that the infection passes to the baby is redefines the idea of giving a new life.

I avoided communication with friends and family out of fear and shame, that others will abhor me. Me, HIV and emptiness remained…

I’m 24 now. One and a half years have passed. I’m still a young, good-looking guy. At first glance I don’t differ from others and got over my HIV status. I even started an affair with someone with hepatitis “B” and told my family and friends about my status. But all this didn’t leave me without any loss. My sister’s husband forbade her and their children to communicate with me, their door is no longer open for me, and if they know that I will attend our family meetings, they won’t come. Most of my friends turned their backs on me, when they discovered that I had HIV without even knowing what HIV is.

I am the one, they don’t want to hear from. I am one of the people, who is being ignored. I’m one of them, whom others abhor, hate or are scared of, and sometimes deny that such status exists. But anyway, I’m one of them and we exist.

How to treat someone with HIV? “Love is the answer” – they sang in a song. Love, care, support, stable relationships, acceptance – here is what could be the normal attitude to my status. That is what helped me move forward.

But how to love? How to really love, when you are HIV positive? How to be loved? How to do it in society, where HIV positive people should hide their status? To love in a society, where your existence is excluded. To love in a society, where people do not really know what HIV is.

Still, I manage to love. I love the life, the people, I love the feeling of love.

Is it possible to love an HIV positive person? Is it possible to live with him, to share the bed and have family? It is possible. Sometimes you just have to be with him. Maybe give him a hug, kiss him or just talk to him. He just may be in need of love and warmth, sincerity and kindness. The warmth can help him accept and love himself rather than hate and reject or feel shame and fear.

Otherwise the person can stay alone – with himself, HIV and emptiness.

A.M.

Translated by Piruza Manukyan