Ten lessons from the first year of living with HIV
Nick Domitrovich wanted to mark and honor the year anniversary of learning he was HIV-positive in a big way. On December 21, 2016, he publicly shared his HIV status with the world—in a moving op-ed published on Medium.com and with friends and family on social media. He also decided to sign up for AIDS/LifeCycle, the 545-mile bike ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles benefiting San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the HIV-related services of the Los Angeles LGBT Center.
Domitrovich said that the experience of disclosing his status was cathartic and healing. “The support I received was overwhelming and empowering,” he said. “I saw this incredible outpouring of love after I posted about my status. People shared my story and I started hearing from friends, friends of friends, and complete strangers. And it just kind of snowballed from there.”
In addition to the responses he received, his story also helped in his fundraising efforts. “My original fundraising goal for AIDS/LifeCycle was $10,000 and on the day I came out, a week after signing up for the ride, I hit $12,000. It was unbelievable. What was once the worst day of my life, became one of the best I’ve yet to experience.”
Read the excerpt of Domitrovich’s op-ed below, and find the original post here.
By Nick Domitrovich
Last year, on December 21st, my doctor called me at work to inform me that I had tested positive for HIV. And just like that, my entire reality changed.
Physically, it was a quick and pretty straight forward journey: I saw my doctor on the 23rd, had additional blood tests on the 24th, started taking antiviral medications on the 25th (Merry Christmas!), received final confirmatory test results on January 5th, and by February 12th I had an undetectable viral load— which I have had ever since, due to daily adherence of my medication. But this is not about my physical journey. There is plenty written out there about the physical aspects and medical developments of HIV, which I encourage you to read if you are reading this, but I found reading and listening to others’ personal stories to be especially helpful for my emotional healing in the weeks and months following my diagnosis. Every individual’s circumstances are different, as is their personal reaction to learning their positive status, and in writing this, I don’t claim to represent anything other than my own story of personal acceptance. In sharing the lessons I’ve learned throughout this first year of being positive, I hope to accomplish two things.
First, I would love to be able to help someone who may just be learning of their own, or a loved one’s, positive status. When I found out, I didn’t have any close friends that I knew who were positive. But one acquaintance, a now close friend of mine, had come out a few months previously on Facebook, and so I reached out to him to see if he’d be willing to grab a coffee. He listened and then shared his story. Throughout this year I have gone back to that first chat many times and have taken comfort in the fact that many of the emotions I was feeling, thoughts I was thinking, or experiences I was having were shared experiences with this man.
Secondly, I hope to continue opening up the dialogue. While we’ve come such a long way in the past 35 years in the fight against HIV, there is still much work to be done, not the least of which is to educate and continue to fight stigma. So, without further ado, here are ten of the lessons I’ve learned during my first year living with HIV.
1. The meds really are amazing
Okay, so I lied. I’ll make one statement about the medical developments.
I had known the meds had come a long way, but damn. My doctor, who is also an HIV specialist, put me on this brand new HIV med, Genvoya, a single tablet derivative of a previous drug called Stribild but with fewer potential kidney and bone density side effects. Genvoya had been on the market for one month at the time of my diagnosis. It was so new, in fact, that my doctor had to give me a handwritten prescription because it wasn’t even in their system. I felt very on trend with my medication!