Happy new month! December 1st is World AIDS day.

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Happy New Month. The year 2014 is almost over. I hope you have accomplished and gone beyond your goals for this year. For the things you still have to do, take your time and do it perfectly. I believe the most important favors to complete are to; forgive yourself for things you have done, ask others to forgive you for things you have done and most importantly, inform your friends, families that you love them. If you have done these 3 things in 2014, you have met and surpassed your goals, 2015 you are unto something big.

Today is World AIDS day and I want to share a story about HIV but I am unsure which to share. Should I repeat the sad story about hundreds of HIV researchers lost in an airplane crash, or improvements in HIV care for communities. Should I share a personal story about the first time I took care of an HIV patient, the first time I tested for HIV or the first time I learnt about HIV/AIDS and its horrible impact on families.

Because I am not certain which story to share, I want to write about the first time I did an HIV test.

In 2011, I walked into a clinic in Oklahoma City and requested for an HIV test. This was the first time I decided to KNOW MY STATUS. Although, I assessed my lifestyle and habits and felt there is no way I have HIV, not having test results implied I was not 100% certain. See, the thing with HIV is that- not knowing does not mean you are negative. Sometimes, not knowing could mean you are delaying treatment. I was a nurse by now, so, I kind of understood health consequences of HIV. Also, I had some knowledge about the stigma, and denial in communities where I come from.

I used the health department because I knew it would be of no cost to me (the blood draw was painful, just like any other IV blood draws). I went to the health department with one of my best friends. I could use some emotional support if need be. After checking in, the nurse called me to a room alone. We talked about HIV; risks factors such as multiple sexual partners, unprotected sexual intercourse, IV drug use, razor blades, blood transfusions etc. We also discussed HIV testing, how long it was going to be before I knew my STATUS. She informed me it will take 1-2 weeks, they send the blood to CDC. If the health department did not contact you, then you are negative and must live a preventative lifestyle. If they call you back, they will do a second test to confirm or refute the first blood analysis.

She drew the blood (vampire), I seized the opportunity to do other STD checks and PAP smear. I returned home and the waiting began.

To be honest, I was afraid of what might the results be. What if- I had been exposed while sick and needing IV drugs in Cameroon, what if, what if…. However, I felt like, no matter what, I am in America, they have medications and I know people living with HIV. So, I waited, waited, waited and got no call from the health department. After 3 weeks, I drove up to the health department and demanded to get a copy of all my test results. They were all NEGATIVE. A sigh of relief.

Now I could be sure about my HIV status. I encourage someone who has never tested to go check yourself.

There is no need to sit down and say I am HIV negative if you dont know your status. Additionally, if you are HIV positive, there is life after diagnosis. Living with HIV is not a death sentence. We are all mortals. In the mean time, go to the health department or your doctors office or a free clinic and request for an HIV test. It is important to know your status. It is the only way you can be sure that you are Living HIV free.

For those living with HIV, I encourage you to love yourselves and know that it is not your fault. It is not a punishment for promiscuity or drug use, or an ancestry curse (mother to child). Live your life with caution and eat healthy. Take your medications as prescribed. Be an activist and educate your community about life after diagnosis. Important!!! use this chance to LIVE life in an admirable way.

HIV prevention means; monogamous sexual partnerships, religious use of condoms, do not share IV needles, and KNOW YOUR STATUS. (I am a Catholic, but I will be realistic with the ABSTINENCE doctrine. Abstinence is the best way to prevent AIDS.Know your status and your partner’s status.

OK. This is one of my HIV stories. Tell me about yours

Mbenwoh

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