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Losing Myself

Losing Myself


Since the beginning of the protease inhibitor era, so many people are living well'or at least peacefully coexisting'with AIDS, I've begun wondering if there's any genuine hate left for the disease. I mean the kind of seething, frothing-at-the-mouth hate that led Larry Kramer and his cohorts at ACT UP to take to the streets of New York in the 1980s and forge a national health care revolution. The kind of hate that makes you want to call AIDS out to the block and whup its tail for all it's worth. The kind of hate that would have your two best friends doing their best in that street fight to pull you off AIDS before you kill it. I've been pondering the toll that AIDS has recently taken on my quality of life, and the more I consider it, the more I loathe the disease. Gone are the days when I was so shocked about becoming HIV-positive that I stayed preoccupied with thoughts of my impending death. Or years later, when I was so relieved about the possibility of being able to live'and live well'with the virus that I became ambiguous about being infected. Back then I figured that I could simply get on with my life'bury my bitterness and pessimism. Funny thing, though: AIDS makes no promises, and it keeps none. And as much as I would like to believe in the carefree drug ads that tell me that I can frolic at the beach or scale a mountain while having AIDS, the fact of the matter is that not even the manufactured notion of being empowered over the disease makes actually having it any easier. And as warm and fuzzy as life appears in those surreal ads, the disease remains near but not dear to me. It's not what I'd choose to share life's ordinary or extraordinary moments with. It is not my friend. You see, lately AIDS has been stealing from me. It began taking my stuff. It began by making off with only a few of my T cells. Barely enough to notice. Just a few here and there. But I let it slide. Then it got greedy. Outright disrespectful, if you want to know the truth. And now every week'instead of what used to be every few weeks'I have to monitor it. It's becoming so unpredictable'with my night sweats and sudden fainting'that I can't trust it anymore. And I find that the more it's stealing, the less I have. The fewer options I have, the less life I'm feeling. And that's why I despise AIDS. Sure, I've heard valid complaints about living with the disease before now'friends of mine who are annoyed by the diarrhea, for example, and by medications that cause it. But after 15 years of gradually losing myself to 'the monster,' I'm becoming angry. Hateful. At 35 years of age'what should be the prime of my life'I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop. My family might shake their heads in disappointment at my cousin, age 19, birthing her second child, but in my heart, I'm envious of her youth and saddened because she's experiencing one of life's miracles that I probably never will. But I'll hang on, contrarily, to my dreams. Refusing to give up on the idea that I will plant a seed and birth something beautiful. Something that reflects my beauty and promise. But that's the other thing I hate about AIDS. As much as I compromise, I never know when the vulture will stop picking my bones, if it ever does. I hate that AIDS is one of the few things in this world that at times makes me feel completely and utterly powerless. That is something that even my mother cannot achieve. Whitfield is one of the nation's leading journalists reporting on AIDS among African-Americans. A frequent Vibe contributor, he is based in New York City.

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