This article is part of the Washington Post’s “A Living HIV Quilt”.
Carl, a 19-year-old Prince George’s County resident, spoke with reporter Susan Levine about finding out that he was HIV-positive — and about his life after the diagnosis. Excerpts from that conversation:
I’ve now been diagnosed for two years. Well, not two years, going on two years. January 13th. I found out on January 13th, 2006. It was Friday the 13th. I never forget, Friday the 13th, what a horrible day to find out . . .
I do not know when or where I was infected. . . . All I can give is a time period, an estimated time period anywhere between the ages of 15 and 16.
If you are what they call an at-risk person, the average teen, you kind of know, you’ve got to know, you have a feeling, look, I’m doing certain things, I’m living a certain lifestyle that can be damaging in the future.
So kind of by the age of 17, I started thinking, you know, all my friends kept saying, we’re all gonna go get tested, and we should all get tested together, but I lived with a certain fear because, a fear of knowing. You know, I kind of said to myself, I think I might have it, but I’m not sure.
To me, at the time, at the time, not knowing was waaaay better than knowing. Because if I didn’t know, I did not have to deal with the pressures or, for lack of understanding at the time, you know, ending my life. You know, it was like a death thing, what I thought at the time.
I was very uneducated about the subject. You know, when things came up on TV about AIDS or HIV, when they talked about it in school, I kind of ran away from it. You know, cut the channel, cover my eyes, ’cause I was scared of, I was scared of the facts, I didn’t want to know the facts, I wanted to stay ignorant to the subject . . . because as long as I was ignorant to the subject, I thought, Okay, I’m fine.
That kept me sane. I’m thinking, If I don’t know anything about it, I’m fine. But if I knew what was going on, it made me feel more and more guilty about the things I was doing as a teenager.
I was afraid my mom was going to throw me out, she was going to disown me as her child. . . . I did not know what the outcomes could be, you know. We didn’t grow up with the best of relationships, so I didn’t know how she was going to feel if I was positive.
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