This I Believe

Elizabeth - North Little Rock, Arkansas
Entered on October 23, 2007
Age Group: 18 - 30
Themes: illness
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A Little Needle vs. Death

There are more than one million people living with HIV and over half of those people die from it. This is a lot of people and a lot of unnecessary deaths. That is why I believe in testing for HIV yearly. You always think that something like HIV could never affect you or your family. You believe you’re invincible to anything like that. My family was the exact same way until it actually happened.

In March of 2007, my family received a phone call from my mother’s Aunt Rose. I watched as my mother answered the phone, put her hand over her mouth and start crying. She hung up the phone and went straight to her room. Her best friend and cousin, Jason, had been diagnosed with HIV. However, we were unaware that he had been battling this fatal disease for twelve years. His own mother, our Aunt Rose, didn’t even know until six years after he had been diagnosed. He had made Aunt Rose promise to not say anything to anybody unless it was absolutely necessary. Not even Rose’s sister, my grandmother, knew of his health condition.

Jason was homosexual and a drug user. So his odds for contracting HIV were extremely high. One factor that didn’t help his HIV was meningitis. At the end of December 2006, Jason had accumulated meningitis, a killer to some people who have it. Jason stayed in the hospital due to the meningitis because he never fully recovered from it.

At the beginning of April, the doctors said that Jason wasn’t going to be alive for more than two weeks. However, he was still alive at the end of the month. His condition had actually started to improve too. Unfortunately, his wellness didn’t last very long. He soon died at the beginning of May. We received another phone call on the day he died and my mother’s reaction to this phone call was worse than the first.

The funeral was held in Oklahoma, where Jason lived. My mother had planned to go and I was really hoping she did go. She needed that sense of closure that her best friend was gone. She was ready to go, but realized almost the week before that she didn’t want to go. She said that she needed to be home with my sisters and me. My great-grandmother would always share a stick of gum with Jason; she would take half and give him the other half. Whenever my great-grandmother died, Jason stuck half a piece of gum in the casket with her and kept the other half. When Jason died, my mom sent my grandmother to Oklahoma with half of a piece of gum; one half she would keep, the other half my grandmother would put under the pillow in Jason’s casket. I’ve wondered from time to time if my mom has fully recovered from Jason’s death, but that’s something I can’t determine for myself.

In August, I went to Arkansas Children’s Hospital to have my factor levels tested for my hemophilia. While I was there, I decided to participate in a yearly study. To participate in the study, I go to the hemophilia clinic every year, have my factor levels tested, my joints measured and be tested for HIV. Not only am I looking out for myself and making sure I’m healthy, but being tested for HIV also helps the blood disorder community.

Being tested for HIV isn’t only beneficial for you, but for many other people as well. The surest way to not obtain HIV is to abstain from sex and drug use; but if abstaining from sex isn’t in your dictionary, then using a condom in every sexual venture you take is the next best thing. I believe in testing for HIV yearly because you can never be too sure of what you or your partner might have. It isn’t hard to do and it isn’t time consuming. If you’re serious about your health, you’ll do anything no matter what.