There isn’t a word to describe how low I’m feeling about myself today. Oh, hang on a minute, yes there is, of course there’s a word that describes me right down to a tee. Its positive, that’s what I’m feeling – HIV positive. I don’t usually feel like this as you’ll know if you’ve read my previous blogs. I am an HIV warrior, an activist, a take me for what I am and what I have or leave me kind of person. But something happened today that has knocked me for a six.
I was awarded a voucher for a facial at a local beauty salon for completing a survey, you know the ones where after you’ve spent half an hour answering all the questions more often than not they inform you are not suitable for that particular survey. Anyway, this was the first one I’d actually got something for, so I thought I might as well use it. It’s been many a year since I’ve visited a beauty salon, before I was diagnosed in fact, thirteen years ago, as you can see from my face which is displaying the ravages of time, not helped by daily dog walking in extreme weathers and the ageing effects of the HIV medications.
The salon itself was very tastefully decorated with relaxing music and scented candles. The therapist led me upstairs to the treatment rooms then left me to fill in a form. I answered all the questions, was I allergic to anything etc. no, no, no.
“You haven’t filled in the other side of the page,” she pointed out when she came back – and there they were, the dreaded questions, the ones I thought I’d been reprieved of –
Do you have any problems with your health? Are you taking any medications? Do you have any infectious diseases?
I have been undetectable for thirteen years, I was not a danger to her, it’s the people with a high viral load who don’t know they are carrying the virus that are the danger.
Should I tell her or not?
I decided not to. I ticked ‘no’ to everything, then boldly signed it with a determined flourish.
I have just told a major lie, I thought as she stood up to lead me to the treatment room. Could I go through with it? Unless I told her she would never know.
“Just a minute,” I called her back; “I haven’t been honest with you. I am HIV positive, but I have an undetectable viral load and therefore I am no danger to you.”
“I will have to ask about our insurance,” she told me and sped off like a bat out of hell to have a word with her boss.
“I can treat you only if I wear surgical gloves,” she announced when she came back, “which I am quite willing to do,” she didn’t want to meet my eye, “but unfortunately we don’t have any in the salon.”
I wasn’t expecting to, but I started to cry, the tears just welled up and my throat constricted as it all came back to me. It was like being told I was HIV positive all over again. I am quite strong, I am not usually shy or ashamed about telling people I am positive, but suddenly I was a quivering wreck. I felt two feet tall and like something the cat had dragged in. I was dirty, contaminated, not fit for human touch – I was untouchable. An HIV leper.
Surgical gloves? Can you imagine? It would be like being massaged with washing up gloves – yellow marigolds!
I was briskly seen off the premises after refusing the offer of coming back next week when presumably a stack of surgical gloves would be in stock purely for my benefit. I got in the car and drove home crying all the way. This feeling of no self worth has stayed with me all day and might take a while to appease. It’s time like these when I hate HIV with a vengeance and everything to do with it and in particular the person who gave it to me. HIV has robbed me of many things and given me nothing in return, although I sometimes try to fool myself that it has – if it wasn’t for HIV I wouldn’t be the person I am now. Huh! Exactly! Living in poverty, prematurely ageing, and not forgetting untouchable by human hand.
Great, well thanks very much HIV – and not forgetting that poxy beauty salon, which incidentally is called The Beauty Emporium and is in Accrington. If you are HIV positive or even if you’re not, give it a wide berth!
I’m sorry for being such a wuss today, but that’s what stigma can do for you and all of us pozzers know that stigma is the worst part of living with this disease and sadly still is to this day. It’s bloody ridiculous.
I’ll leave you with a song made famous by Michael Buble (and a few others!) to describe exactly how I’m feeling.
Birds flying high….. you know how I feel….. sun in the sky….. you know how I feel…. breeze driftin’ on by…. you know how I feel – It’s a new dawn – it’s a new day – it’s a new life for me….. and I’m feeling ………..positive!!