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Fear of the Unknown

Fear of the Unknown


I'm constantly challenging myself to try to answer the tough questions in life. I devote much of my thinking to issues related to HIV'and often only uncover more confusion. There is one question I have yet to really consider: 'What if tomorrow they found a cure for HIV? What happens next?' Of course, we would all be elated, but I can't help but wonder if we would be prepared for the fallout that would likely come from such a huge shift in the global health landscape. There is no denying the benefits of a cure, but I urge you to think about all that would be impacted by it. This would be a monumental discovery that could change the face of this earth and, more specifically, the day-to-day lives of millions of people, including myself. While there would be a sense of utter relief at the thought of finally ridding my body of this disease, I would also feel an overwhelming sense of loss. For nearly four years, I've worked to come to terms with my diagnosis'I'm still learning how it affects me, my friends, and all those I care about. To suddenly not have that task would leave a void. The better part of my last two years has been consumed with using my HIV story to bring change to the world or, at a minimum, change within my community. In many ways, HIV has given me a voice that I never thought I had or needed. It has fundamentally changed me'I am more compassionate, empathetic, caring, and patient. It has no doubt given me a sense of mortality and urgency, and it has completely shifted my worldview. To think of that primary catalyst suddenly disappearing is frightening. In my daily conversations about HIV and AIDS, I've witnessed some of the best and worst of humanity. I've met hundreds of new people whom I likely would have never met otherwise. I've spoken at schools, visited HIV centers, and created a bond with a community that is linked by nothing other than this virus that runs in our blood. All these experiences have added new dimensions to my personality. So when I think of a cure, I'm oddly scared of 'losing' HIV, just as much as I am scared to live with it. Somehow, there is a part of me that is thankful for the unexpected journey this illness has cast me on. As both AIDS and I enter our 30th years, I find myself with a newfound respect for and pride in my status as an HIV-positive man. I'm not necessarily proud to carry the virus'nor ashamed for how I contracted it'but proud of the community I find myself in, proud of my mind's response to the unexpected diagnosis, and proud of the people who have joined me along the way. So, yes, every fiber of my being hopes science does find a cure'tomorrow, next week, or in the years to come. But when that happens, I will mourn the passing of this profound experience. I will hold the virus and all it continues to teach me in the highest regard. For perhaps it is not the cure I am scared of at all. Maybe I'm fearful of all that I might unlearn if it's so quickly taken away. Tyler Helms is a former television journalist and advertising executive. He was diagnosed with HIV in 2007 and came out as positive on World AIDS Day, 2009.

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Tyler Helms