AIDS 101 – Billy’s Story – A surfer living with AIDS / HIV

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How am I going to live my life if I am positive? Is it going to be a negative?

Like many others his age, Billy grew up with little knowledge of AIDS. For years, the media continued to point to particular groups, mainly homosexuals and drug addicts, as the only people affected by the disease. But as more and more is learned, AIDS cases in heterosexual adolescents and young adults have skyrocketed.

“If I had known what I know about the disease now, say, five or ten years ago, all my options about relationships and sex would have changed. Back then, and even today, it is a man’s thing to sleep with as many girls as possible. possible – kind of like bragging rights. Look back now – trying to be cool will actually kill me. “

Billy, a 23-year-old blonde native Californian, fits the typical surfer / boarder stereotype, except that one thing sets Billy apart from the rest: he is HIV positive. It is one of the growing numbers of teens and young adults who have been caught off guard by this once-unknown disease. It is estimated that between the ages of 13 and 24, one in 300 is infected with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus), the virus that leads to AIDS.

I think about life and immorality, what is the first thing I do if I am HIV?

At a local coffee shop, Billy and I talk about what happened. Sipping a mocha, he remembers the fateful day he learned of his circumstances.

“I remember all the details: going to have a normal physical in the hospital and having my blood drawn. Everything seemed fine, and even the doctor mentioned that I seemed to be in good health. About two weeks later, ten days before my birthday, a nurse He calls from the hospital to ask me to come back. No explanation, nothing. “

They drew my blood with an anonymous number two weeks waiting asking me

Billy thought he was sick with cancer, like several members of his family before him. “I was very afraid to go see the doctor,” he says. “I didn’t tell anyone, not even my parents or girlfriend. The idea that they would have to worry about me scared the hell out of me.” Billy pauses to reflect, then continues: “Something about the office and the doctor looming over me I felt like I was at heaven’s gates waiting to find my destiny.” So BAM, like hitting a brick wall, the doctor told Billy that his blood test came back positive for HIV.

I should have done this a long time ago, lots of excuses why I couldn’t go. I know these things and these things I must know, because it is better to know than not to know!

“AIDS?” Billy answered. “Isn’t he some kind of homosexual or drug dealer?” While playing with his mocha, Billy remembers thinking, “There’s no way I can get something like that. It must have been a lot of confusion. So I thought, Oh shit, I must have used the same toilet seat. Or touched the knob on a door that some infected person used. But the doctor went on to say that there was no way to get HIV from that, and then he asked me if I had ever had unprotected sex, without a condom. ” Billy had had unprotected sex.

“Yeah, a couple of times,” he says, “because they feel uncomfortable or I didn’t have one in the heat of the moment. I thought if the girl was taking the pill, who needed to use a condom?”

Was it really all that magic? the times I didn’t use prophylactic

“I think it was a girl I dated in college about four or five years ago,” recalls Billy. According to the Center for Disease Control, AIDS cases in women have increased from seventeen percent to 39 percent in the past four years. AIDS has become the sixth leading cause of death in the United States among 15-24 year olds.

I’m reading about how some behavior is conveyed, I must admit. who I slept with, who they slept with, who, who, who they slept with.

Since learning of his diagnosis, one of the hardest things Billy has had to deal with is telling past girlfriends he had sex with about the virus. “When I sat down to make a list of who I slept with,” says Billy, “it started to scare me how many people there were.” Billy does not say this to be perceived as a so-called “stud”, but as part of understanding his high-risk behavior and his role in the spread of HIV.

“When I started calling them one by one,” recalls Billy, “I was faced with explaining what had happened and telling each of them that they should get tested.” Billy realizes that he didn’t have to do this, but would have felt guilty about not doing it. He goes on to say that some of the girls were angry because they felt that Billy had “killed” them, as one girl put it. Others were understanding and asked how they could help.

Pick up the phone and call my previous lovers. I never thought of infecting “anotha all the times I said” Hmmm? Do not bother.

Every day, like the other million Americans estimated to be HIV positive, Billy lives life to the fullest. “Sometimes I get really depressed,” he admits, “but I do it and try to indulge in some of the simplest pleasures.” Billy sees life a little differently than you and I probably do, and as he talks about the different experiences he encounters each day, or his dreams of surfing in Tavarua that he hopes to fulfill, Billy knows that now, unlike before , must be carefull. of what your body will have in store for the future.

Would I have to change my whole life? Or would my life remain the same? Sometimes it makes me want to scream! all of these things are too hard to think about.

Over the cold coffee, Billy brings out his growing frustration at what has been happening around him. You are afraid to tell your friends due to your lack of knowledge about HIV / AIDS. “I know that once I tell you,” says Billy, “I will become an instant leper, an outcast.” He claims that it is not the failures of his friends, but the failure of society to educate his peers about AIDS.

“Young adults need to see an alternative, not being preached to, but educated about prevention,” Billy explains. “Too many groups are fighting over whether to teach safe sex, abstinence or give out condoms in public schools; they don’t realize it while they are fighting, more of us are dying because we ignore the facts.”

How am I going to live my life if I am positive? is it going to be negative?

As the afternoon draws to a close, Billy rushes in for a quick surf session before dark. I look out over the water: Billy is charging full force on the line. A few hours later, he paddles back, showing off every cut he made and asking if we all saw him. Sometimes he surprises me with his energy and his love for life, but now I understand how he perceives things. The disease that has taken hold of so many has not stopped Billy or his dreams. Billy may be different from the others because of that. He is still my friend.

a day to laugh, a day to cry, a day to live and a day to die until I find out, you may wonder, but I’m not going to live my life six feet underground.

* Lyrics written by Michael Franti, Charlie Hunter, performed by Spearhead, “Positive” appears on Spearhead’s Home CD and Red, Hot and Cool CD.

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