Living Well With HIV: Acceptance

Elisabeth Kubler Ross describes five common stages that people go through when they are experiencing the process of grief or loss; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. One of the personal challenges for people living with HIV is to overcome the sense of loss derived from no longer being able to play out their sexuality in exactly the same way they did before they were diagnosed.

So for example, let’s start with someone who is newly diagnosed, who possibly was the kind of person that screened out people who had HIV when they cruised for sex (‘you’re clean right?’ and ‘you’d be disease free too?’). The sudden realisation that those same discriminating terms are now directed towards them can feel very hurtful and devastating. Like their genetic endowment, their viral status with HIV is now permanent. They may wish to undo some of their past, they may wonder which of their friends they can really trust, and whether they will ever have sex again let alone fall in love. I hear people say ‘With whom? Not now that I have HIV.’

As time continues they may realise that sexuality remains an essential and important part of their lives. So they slowly engage in a process of educating themselves about what they can do, and how to do it so that they can have a fulfilling sex life and keep themselves and others safe. They return to the social scene more determined than ever to always use a condom when required. They then experience a mix of responses when communicating their HIV status. Some people are accepting, educated, and have confidence in condoms; others are frightened while at the same time relieved that someone has been honest with them – they now know someone else to actively avoid (in their mind they think they had a lucky escape, warn friends, and gossip). The experience of rejection for people living with HIV is painful and makes them wish away their lives (not wanting to be alive with this virus). However, eventually they realise they don’t need the whole world to love them, just two handfuls of true friends would suffice.

It doesn’t matter what your experiences are, our encounters with human nature encourages us to grow and develop our spirituality. Many people living with HIV come to accept that to love themselves requires effort, and to love themselves with a virus requires a deeper love, a deeper effort.

My wish for you: Embrace life, breath and accept more…

Cipri Martinez