• VA Appointment = AWKWARD

    Had my 3 month Dr appointment today at the VA ID Clinic in Salisbury at the VA Hospital.  I got to discuss some great topics with my doctor and got some really good news.

    First we went over my lab results from March.  Still have an undetectable viral load and my CD4 count is still up around 1000 but my % went from 35% to 40% which is great.  That is the highest percent it has been in years.  Usually it stays around 33-35%.  Also my liver enzymes which have been elevated for years are back to normal levels.  The doc said they were the best he has ever seen them.  And on top of that I am still loosing weight.  I am down another 5lbs since Jan. which may not seem like a lot but for me it is awesome.

    Second I asked my Doctor about PrEP.  My main question was if the VA would cover it for vets who are at higher risk of contracting HIV.  He told me that he has only seen one patient who wanted to start it and that the VA asked no questions when he wrote the prescription.  This is great news in my opinion.  My doc fully supports PrEP which is important to me.  He did say that it could only be a vet who they can prescribe it to which I understand.

    ***Disclaimer*** This is where the awkwardness comes in and I apologize if it may be a little graphic, but I am giving you fair warning.***

    So some of the back story…  In Jan I had my doc do a full work up on me.  He tested for all STD/STI’s because I wanted to start the new year out with a clean bill of health.  Well for the past year or so he has been encouraging me to get an anal pap-smear to test for abnormal cells in the rectum.  I finally agreed to it in Jan because I figured why the hell not, he was already testing for everything else.  All it included was taking a swab sample from inside the rectum which was no big deal.  He did it and if a few days I forgot all about it.

    That was until I got a call from him saying that the test showed that I did indeed have a presence of abnormal cells which would be linked to HPV or pre-cancerous.  Now I was a little worried but he said they would schedule an appointment with my next regular appointment to have a procedure to go and look.  OK really worried but once again I forgot about it in a few days.

    Get there today and he starts to tell me what all this procedure would include and I was like “excuse me, you want to do what with my ass?”

    Here is the most awkward part… Make a long story short this procedure meant that he would go in with a scope and “look” around with a big magnifying glass.  He used vinegar and iodine to be able to pick the “trouble” looking spots out.  On top of this the Nurse who I have always loved, she was also in the room helping with this all.  So I laid on my side on a table for close to 30 min while my doc had a scope up my ass looking around.  The “best” part was that everything he was seeing was displayed on the big TV screen right in front of me.  Not only was I embarrassed to be laying there with two people I hardly know looking in a very private place but damn did they have to put it on the TV so I could watch too?  So the doc saw a few areas that made him worry so he decided he needed to take a biopsy of 3 different places inside my rectum.  So now I have a scope shoved in there and he is ripping peaces out so that they can send them to the lab and determine if they are cancer or what.

    As you can imagine it has been a very long and awkward day.  After all that I still had to dive 1.5 hours back to Charlotte and had a meeting this afternoon that I had to go to, all with a very sore ass.  I am not allowed to lift anything over 20lbs for a week and not allowed to have any “fun” if you get my drift.

    Today was a mix of emotions, I was so happy to find out all my labs look so great but I am still on wits end worried about what these biopsies are going to determine.  Tonight I am going to try and not worry about it, I am going to listen to some Garth Brooks and drink some damn good Bourbon.

    CHEERS!!!



  • Tattooing: A Slap in the Face

    Yesterday I contacted a local tattoo parlor about possibly getting some work done.  I have 3 tattoos and 3 piercings.  I not only want some new work but I also want to get some touch ups on a few of the ones I have.  Yes tattoos and piercings are addictive and once you get one, you always want another.

    I have not gotten a tattoo since my HIV diagnosis so I was not really sure of how to handle the situation.  Part of me waited this long because I was afraid of rejection and how it might impact me.  I know of plenty of people who have gotten them and being HIV-positive, but I just didn’t know the exact procedures that needed to be followed.  I figured now was a good time due to the fact that I now have a undetectable viral load and that maybe a tattoo would not be such a shock to my system.  I contacted the parlor via e-mail and asked what their shop rates were and if they had a policy against tattooing people with HIV.  I felt that it was better to be upfront about it and let them know before I just went into the shop.  A part of me regrets ever asking now, but I am always honest about my diagnosis especially when there is a higher risk involved. I did get a reply back that was short and simple.  They said “No we will not.  Thanks for asking and we appreciate your concern for the well being of our artists and customers.”

    This just kind of hit me the wrong way and at the time really pissed me off.  This incident is the first time I have felt discrimination based on my HIV status in a very long time.  I had almost forgotten what it felt like.  I wanted to put them on blast and “educate” them but then I figured it would do no good.  Even if I did send them a list of facts and educational material they would probably still say no, and if they did change their minds and say yes, I was sure as hell not going to let them do any work on me after all of this.

    This whole incident is just a reminder of how far we still have to go in fighting the stigmas that are related to HIV, especially here in the South where so many are still uneducated about it.  Yes, there are plenty of other tattoo parlors in the area that I could contact and I am sure I can find a good artist that is willing to do the work.

    I do believe I read somewhere last night while searching laws against refusal of service that the CDC has zero reported cases of a HIV transmission between a customer and a tattoo artist.  I am not sure if this is fact or not and I tried to find the source again today but could not.  I also read that a tattoo artist can refuse service to anyone for just about any reason, which could mean they don’t like the way you look or smell.

    All tattoo artist must take universal precautions and treat each customer as if they do have HIV or some other blood born disease.  If a parlor and artist are taking the right precautions (new needles, sterilized equipment, and gloves)  then there is very little chance of transmission.  In most states a tattoo artist must demonstrate knowledge of proper safety procedures before they can even get their license.

    I guess the question comes down to disclosure.  Are you required by law to inform a tattoo artist of your HIV status?  I think it is a good idea, that way the artist not only makes sure they take the proper steps to protect themselves but it also helps to protect you as well.  Even if not required by law I think you should tell them.  If there was some freak accident and the artist was pricked with the needled, you do not want to face criminal charges or be sued for not disclosing.  I guess it really has to do with the local laws in your area.

    All of this was just a slap in the face to me and was kind of a wake up call.  Just because I am comfortable now with my status and educated on the subject, it doesn’t mean that everyone else it.  I am still on the hunt for a good artist who is willing to do the work and I will always be upfront about it.



  • A Call Today

    Recieved a call this evening from The Marine’s Wounded Worrior group that really got me to thinking.  It was great to get the call in the aspect that it makes me feel like I have not been forgotten and that I am still part of the Marine family that I love so much.  But this call got me thinking which is usually a bad thing.  I guess this is just part of the funk I have been in for a while now.

    I was asked the usual questions like if I was using The VA for my health care and if I was able to pay my bills, and if I was working or in school.  All of that was the usual thing which did not bother me at all.

    Then I was asked one question, and that question alone really got to me and I am not sure why.

    He asked me “Do you have a support system, friends or family you can talk to?”

    Sure I have friends and family and I love them to death, but I don’t know if I would call them a “support system.”  Yeah I can talk to them but they never really understand.

    I told him “sure, if I wanted to talk to them.” Yeah I know that sounded rude as hell, but it is not like I could really tell him the truth.  And if I did tell him the truth, what matter did it make? He could not change my circumstances with just a phone call, no matther how good his intentions.

    I wanted to shout “NO, I do not have any one to talk to,” but once again what good would that do?

    Then I got to thinking, I really do have a support system. It may not be your normal type in the since that I do not have someone to physically sit down with and talk to, but it is a support system all the same.

    Y’all have become my support system. Strangers in the real world, yet we all come together online and are there for each other.  Y’all have become part of my family and for that I must thank you.

    This may just sound like rambling to some but it is my truth.  Even when I am in one of my funks like I have been as of late, I know I can find support from this awesome community that I am so proud to be part of.

    So once again “Thank You” to each and everyone of you have has been there and helped to see me through this journey thus far.



  • St. Patrick’s Day Update

    I apologize for not really having much to post recently.  To be honest I just don’t know what to say right now.  I have been going through kind of a funk for the past few weeks where I pretty much shut myself off from the world.  I was not really in the mood to talk to anyone or do anything.  I think I am finally starting to shake that funk and getting back to normal and hopefully I will have some more interesting post soon for you guys.

    Recently (in the last week) my Mental Health Dr. changed some of my prescriptions around and it is taking me a lil while to get use to the change.  I hope it will eventually be for the better.  I want to try and get off as many medications as I can.  We took 3 out of the mix but replaced them with 1 new med.  I just don’t want to stop some of them too soon and end up having another episode like I did right after my HIV diagnosis where I was hospitalized for 3 months.  So here is to keeping my fingers crossed that it all works out.

    I have some new things happening in my life that I really hope will improve my way of living and I promise I will fill y’all in more when the time is right.  I don’t want to jump the gun and get my hopes up right yet.

    So with this St. Patrick’s Day coming up my only 2 real HIV+ friends here in Charlotte have invited me to take part in the pub crawl downtown tomorrow.  I am sure that we will have a blast (we better after I went out and bought all this tacky green stuff to wear.)  It is going to be nice to hang out and get out and maybe meet some new people.

    Last weekend at a party (no partying is not all I do), I was talked into doing The Spartan Race next weekend here in Charlotte.  We have a team of 6, 3 males and 3 females.  All the females work for The VA and I am pretty sure they are going to kick all the guys asses.  We did decided as a team that we would advance together and would not move to the next obstacle till the last person on the team finished the previous one.  This is so going to kick my ass cause even with going to the gym the bit I do, I am nowhere near ready for this, but I welcome any challenge that will push me to better myself.

    So there you go, that was my quick update on what has been going on with me.  I promise I have not forgotten about y’all.  Just be patient with me while I get some things figured out.



  • 4 Years and 1 Hell of a Ride

    Four years come and gone, and what a hell of a ride it has been.

    Today, Feb 23, 2014 marks my four year anniversary of when I was officially diagnosed with HIV.  Since then I have had plenty of ups and even more downs, and it has been a slow process but I am finally getting back to feeling more like myself.

    At the beginning I would not think about the future because I never saw myself as having one, but boy was that a lie.  I always felt like everyone was lying when they said there was no reason I could not live a long, normal, and healthy life.  I now know they were not.  I just had to come to that realization in my own time and in my own way.  To be blunt, I never thought in the beginning that I would still be here four years later to write this.

    I remember sitting in the support group at Naval Medical Center Balboa and listening to my fellow peers talk about how they had been HIV-positive for 5+ years.  I was always in awww of them for having the strength to fight this so long and that they seemed to be winning the fight.  it just baffled me at the time how they seemed to be happy because I felt like I never would be again.

    I have been writing about my experiences since the beginning just as a way to vent.  It was mainly for myself and I was not that regular in keeping up with it.

    It was not till my anniversary last year when I set down to write that I made the decision to kick it up a bit and take this to the next level.

    This day in the past has always been kind of a downer day for me.  I always just want to be left alone and not be bothered by anyone, but today I refuse to let myself get like that.  I do not see today as a day of grief or remorse anymore, instead it will be a day of celebration.  To celebrate that I am still here and that with each passing year I am becoming stronger and happier with the person I am becoming.

    This past year I have seen the biggest change in myself.  I have been given some great opportunities such as creating my own website and blogging for thebody.com and they have allowed me to grow, and in my own small way help in the fight against HIV/AIDS.  I have been able to be in contact with some great individuals in the community who have become part of the backbone to my support system.  I also started medication, which I was scared of at first, bit in just a few months I reached an undetectable viral load.  This is also for me another reason to celebrate.

    So if this past year alone is any indication as to what my future has in store for me… I am ready to embrace it with open arms.  I am not saying it is going to be all  good days and that I am not going to have hard times because we all know that would be a lie, but I am ready to tackle any challenge thrown my way.

    It is still my anniversary, but it is no longer a day that will bring me sadness.  It will be a day to rejoice for the 2nd chance I have been given to make the best of the life I have been given.

    Bring it on world, I am ready for anything you can dish out at me…

     



  • Fucking Love Sex

    *Disclaimer: If you are offended by the use of certain words and people being blunt then please get over it.

    God I LOVE sex.  I mean I really fucking love it, but I guess that is what got me in my current situation.

    Yes, there was a time when I wanted nothing to do with sex.  it was right after my HIV diagnosis.  I did not feel like even being touched, I truly thought of myself as one of those “untouchables.”  It has taken some time for me to get that drive back, but boy when I did it came in like flood gates being opened (no pun intended.)

    Now don’t go getting the idea that I just run around sleeping with anyone and everyone.  I left those days behind me a while ago.  But lately I have found myself thinking more and more about good ol’ dirty-sweaty-sex.  You know the kind I am talking about.  Like when you are done you are warn out past the point of exhaustion and needing a cig.  I am feeling like a teenage boy again who gets a raging boner when the wind shifts.

    Feeling like this again has made me think (when I am not thinking about sex) that maybe I am just using sex like a drug.  The “drug” is the sex it’s self and the “high” comes from the human connection,  but with any drug that high does not last and I keep wanting more.  It is not really the sex I am wanting, instead it is the feel some kind of human connection/embrace.

    I know I am no the only one out there that is doing this and to be honest, I do not even think of it like that when I am in the “mood”.  All I am thinking is I need my “fix.”  Just like nicotine and caffeine, it is something else I have become addicted to.

    It is those addictions that are getting so many of us into trouble.  We get use to getting that fake high and we want more and more.  We must stop using meaningless sex to give us that “high” when what we are really wanting is a real relationship and true companionship.  (Now I am not going to get started right now on dating and relationships in the gay community because Lord knows I could go on about that for a week.)

    When we realize that using sex as a drug and chasing that high is doing nothing but putting us at harm and others at harm, then and only then can we start to break that addiction and change the course of new HIV infections.

    If you are like me, you are still going to go out there and look for a good lay and I see nothing wrong with that from time to time.  We all know we need it.   Just be safe, there is no point in risking your health or risking anyone else’s for a one night stand.  Also remember those one night stand will not give you that feeling you are really wanting, trust me I have had enough of them for all of us.



  • Back to the Marines

    So as some of you may know, last Wed (Jan 15 2014) I drove from Charlotte, NC to Camp Lejeune in Jacksonville, NC to visit some of my closest and dearest friends from my days in the Corps when stationed out in San Diego, CA.  It was truely a wonderful time to get to reunite with good friends and share stories of times past.  We all had so much catching up to do, and talked of how our lives have changed since we all went our sperate ways.

    Being back on a base brought back some memories and feelings that I had not concidered for so long.  It made me long for the days before my HIV diagnosis and my medical discharge from Active Duty.  Made me miss that brotherhood that no one can truely understand unless you have experienced it for yourself.  But the thing it made me want the most was to be able to put my uniform back on and return to doing something I truely loved.

    Yes, I could still served after I recieved my diagnosis and spent 20 years in if I wanted to and I know quit a few good military members who still continue serving after HIV.  With also being diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder and an anxiety disorder, they thought it be best if I got out due to medical reasons and so I was medically retired.

    I loved my time in the Corps but like with any job it has it’s good things and bad.  You just have to learn to accept things like that.  Towards the end I had more of the bad times which were mostly my own doing, but over all I was and am proud to have served.

    I often think that if I had not joined the Marines then I would of never been stationed in San Diego and might not of ever contracted HIV, but then I also think I would of never gotten to fulfill a dream of being a Marine and I never would of gotten to create those bonds and friendships that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

    Just being back in that situation, surrounded by the military life, even only for a brief time has been so good for me.  I came to a realization that if I can take that fire I felt when I was serving and redirect it to something else (like HIV Activism or school) then I could be unstopable and actually make a difference.  All that motivation I witnessed while on base has helped to motivate me even more to educate people about HIV and erasing those stigmas that are associated with it.

    Semper Fi, Do or Die



  • Look Back

    When you look back at your life will you see nothing but regrets and mistakes?  Will you be able to say that you have left a positive mark on this world?

    At first after recieving my diagnosis this idea first started to come to mind.  These were those ignorant days when I truely believed that I was going to die any day.  As I said that was my era of ignorance.

    I really started to think about what kind of mark I would leave on this world and to be honest, thinking about this just made me more depressed at the time. Yeah I had proudly served God, Country, and Corps honorably and yes I am more proud of that then you could imagine… but so have countless others before me.  So yes it is a positive mark on this world or at least I believe so, but I wanted to do something different.

    I had no children at the time of my diagnosis and now it is even more unlikely that I ever will.  So I had no new generation to carry on my family name or to be able to pass down all the knowledge my father has passed down to me.  This will probably be one of the only things I truely regret in my life.  I always said I never wanted kids but now it is a different story.

    I do look back but I do not see mistakes, I now see hard learned lessions.  As for regrets, we all have those, but we can aleays learn to start living each day to it’s fullest.

    As for what kind of mark I am going to leave on this world…. well I truely believe I am doing it now.  I believe this blog and writing my experiences to share with others is the positive type of mark I want to leave on this world.

    By learning from my mistakes and using what I have learned to teach others, I help give them the knowledge they need to not to make the same bad choices I did.  By doing this I know I have helped to leave the world a little better and I am fine with that.

    “Using education to teach the next generation”



  • Hell YES (Today is Mine)

    Start off by saying this has been a very long day so I am enjoying my Friday evening like any other old man.  I am in bed by 2100!

    As I told all you fine folks yesterday, I had my first ID appointment of the year today.  I was a bit nervous about it due to not really knowing any of my lab results since starting Stribild back in late Sept.  I was due for an appointment in Dec but the clinic had to reschedule me and today was the first time they could get me in.

    Well the results are in… (drum roll please)…  I AM UNDETECTABLE! The lab that the VA uses can read >20 so anything under 20 they consider to be undetectable. And the news gets better… Since starting Stribild my CD4 count has gone from 636 in Sept to 1000 when my labs were taken in early Dec.  This really just made me feel so great to know that my body was responding so good to my medication.  I have had been worrying about this in the back of my mind since I started.  I was worried that since I have a resistance to Sustiva, then I might have a resistence to other meds as well.

    I figured while I was at it I wanted to make sure I had a clean bill of health to start the year off with.  I asked my ID doc to do a full STD/STI work up while I was in the office. I had to give blood, urine, and have 2 anal swabs.  My ID doc suggested I have an anal pap smear which is used to test for HPV.  He has been suggesting it for like a year now and I kept putting it off because… well we all know things like that are awkward.  But I figured since I was having a full work up I might as well get it over with.  To be honest it was not as bad as I was fearing, just another swab.

    So with all that great news I also got registered for classes today.  I had to leave the VA and drive about 2 hours to school because Monday is the last day to get registered.  Nothing like waiting till the last min lol, but I still ended up getting all the classes I needed for the semester.  All my classes are on Tues and Thur which I like because I get long weekends.

    So as you can see it has been a long day and I am physically and mentally drained, but it was well worth it.  Just to get that bit of news is like a huge weight lifted off my shoulders.  Now looking back I am not sure why I was so scared to start meds, I should have done it awhile back.

    I have a feeling I am going to sleep good tonight, that is if I can come down from this high I have been riding since I found out.  So I bid you all a good night.

     

     

     



  • Hello 2014

    2014 is finally here and I can not say that I am sad to see 2013 behind me.  This past year has been a roller coaster for me but that is all in the past now.  I know that every year people make New Years Resolutions and 99% of the time they fail.  This year I decided to make no resolutions.  Instead I decided to write down my goals for 2014, but I will get back to them in a sec.

    I am also trying to take part in a writing challenge for 2014.  Everyday for 365 days I must write for at least 5 minutes a day, no matter how big or small it is.  I can choose to write either on my site or in a journal or however I choose.  This is one of my goals for 2014.  Told you I would get back to my goals.

    So my list of goals will be changing all year.  It will be growing.  As I achieve a goal I will add another to this list and so on. For the year of 2014 my list so far is this:

    1. Find a decent job and move out on my own.
    2. Start painting/drawing again.
    3. Continue to loose weight and take better care of myself.
    4. Grow my website and work on HIV outreach both I locally and on a bigger scale.
    5. Write everyday for at least 5 minutes even if I do not feel like it.
    6. Be more open to the possibility of finding happiness/love.
    7. Cintinue to gow as a person in all aspects of my life.

    Now some of these goals are not things that will be reached over night and most likely I will be working on them all year, but I am up for it.  I just hope I do not loose this motivation as the year moves forward.

    We all start off the year by saying this year is going to be different and we uaually do a good job for the first few months but then we slowly start to loose focus and motivation.  This year I hope not to.  I want help from my readers to keep me motivated on my goals.  Anything in life worth ha ing is worth working hard to get.

    On a side note I have my second ID appointment tomorrow at the VA since starting on Stribild back in the end of Sept.  I hope this is the visit when they tell me that I am finally undetectable and that my CD4 count is continuing to improve.  That would be some great news to start the New Year with.  I will let y’all know how it goes tomorow, no matter if it is good, bad, or ugly.  I think I am going to ask them to do a full STD check up so I know I am starting the year off right.