Sven's Personal Story: HIV/AIDS
Sven, originally from Holland but now living in Los Angeles, was told he was HIV+ positive on July 5 th, 2001. He was infected by his male partner who never bothered to tell him about his own HIV status. Since then he has battled to cope with blind prejudice, the death of his father and abandonment by many “friends”. This is his story:
“Ever heard the opening line of the song “You’ll never walk alone?” It goes like this: “if you walk through a storm, hold your head up high.” Now common logic tells me that whoever wrote this song has never been to Holland in the middle of winter. With winds reaching gale force 11, holding your head up high would mean it would get snapped off and you end up looking like a pez dispenser.
Somebody asked me not all that long ago if looking back at the last three years in my life, if things made sense to me now; things like my father’s death, my HIV, my friends walking out, losing my job and so on. My first thought was that none of it made any sense and none of it ever will, but then I took a step back and looked at the events again.
I looked at the events and all of a sudden this connecting thread started to become visible. The words “self worth and self esteem” appeared in my mind.
The first two events that I saw becoming connected were my father’s passing and my friends walking out on me. For as long as I can remember, each time I came to my father for love or validation I was paid off. His idea of love was to either give me cash or something materialistic. And it hurt, because I couldn’t care less about whatever amount of cash he gave or the new TV, the new bike or the new stereo; all I wanted from him was some attention and validation of his love for me.
Aware of what he did to me as his son, I have been so careful not to “buy” my friends’ love for me. To not sway their feelings for me by bribing them with cash, trips or whatever. Instead I offered my love and loyalty as a friend and still stood by as most of them walked away when my cash resources dried up or when I was no longer able to give them anything other than just my friendship. One can say that these were not real friends to begin with then; the same as my father never acted as a true father. It only stands to reason, logically, that as with my father’s behavior ending with his passing the time has now come for those friends in my life to vanish as one of the last dysfunctional symptoms of my upbringing. Never forgetting that we are truly the product of both our father and our mother.
I am worth more than the sum of my checking account or my assets. My self worth is not dependent on how rich I am or how many things I have. And it is that worth which will bring people into my life who will value me for my self worth rather than the possibility of me paying for their bills, taking the m shopping or investing in their schemes.
Now my HIV.
For so long, I defined myself by my sexuality. At one point in time I had business cards made up that said: “Sven, an experience above a lay.” I could lose myself every time I had sex; drowning in my passion and intensity while slowly defining more and more of who I was by the compliments I received regarding my sexual escapades. How proud I was to have a book inscribed to my behind, the pinnacle of my career as a lay. And then I got sick.
And I had to question that same behavior that, for so long, held so much joy and promise of escape to me. That same joy had made me sick; exposing me to a deadly virus for which there is no known cure. A virus that made not only my own body an enemy against me, it also laid bare prejudice and ignorance in those around me. I had to question my sexuality, my place in life, my responsibility in life and my path in life. I took a three year absence from any kind of sexual interaction, spending time instead on figuring out why I had become sick, what purpose it would hold in my life and how I would choose to handle this virus from that point on.
If you really want to find out who your true friends in life are, try being broke and not putting out. You will be amazed how soon that phone stops ringing and how little your front door gets opened.
Now, looking back on all the events that happened in my life, I know this: I didn’t get sick when I tested HIV+, instead I started to heal. I started to heal this man who thought that love was either something you had to buy or sacrifice your body for. I stopped thinking so little of myself and placing so little value on my life I was jeopardizing my soul. I started to appraise my life, my behavior and my principles and placing the appropriate value on them. I stopped seeing myself as a lay. (Although I still am an experience. I am an experience as a human being.)
"If you walk through a storm, hold your head up high. And don’t be afraid of the dark. For at the end of the storm, lies a golden sky. And the sweet simple song of our love. Walk on through the rain, walk on through the wind. Walk on, walk on….."
My name is Sven”
Sven argues the case for routine CD-4 cell count measurements to be combined with regular HIV testing for all sexually actively people - Read T-Cells