How do we live today with HIV? Our journalist went to meet Anne, 59, an AIDS survivor, who tells us about her story and her daily life. The article below is largely the transcription of the associated video interviews.
What was your reaction ?
When it was really announced to me, in March 86, I left in the toilets. I cried for half an hour and made the decision not to have children because I didn’t want to contaminate a child or for a child to lose his mother. So here it is, in 85/86, it was death. It was the start of the carnage. I lived with this stigma and all these deaths around me.
Did you trigger AIDS?
To have AIDS is to have less than 200 CD4 in the blood. CD4s are immune cells. And when their quantity is really low, we trigger opportunistic diseases. I had cerebral toxoplasmosis. I had yeast that invaded my mouth, esophagus and I couldn’t swallow anything. When I weighed only 37 kilos, I was at home with my 6-hour infusion of antifungals, for me the future was death. I was ready to leave. I had no more regrets. I was serene because I was no longer anxious about the future, because there was none left.
I was saved in 1996 by antivirals, molecules that prevent the virus from multiplying. I took them and a month later, I was running like a rabbit! Whereas before, I could no longer climb stairs. It was amazing, an almost instantaneous resurrection.
How are you living with HIV today?
I live very well with HIV. I only have one medicine to take a day and it’s nothing at all because in the first years I had 40 to take a day. I live like everyone else. The advantage of being HIV-positive is that you have a check-up every six months at the hospital. We are much more watched than an HIV-negative person. It is estimated that we have a higher life expectancy than people who are not HIV positive.
What I can tell you is that everything that happened to me gave me one thing: to live in the present moment, to live the here and now and to savor the little things.
What message is close to your heart?
All HIV-positive people, with an undetectable viral load for six months, who take their treatment well, are harmless. That is to say, they absolutely cannot contaminate, in any way people. It is not known. Even my doctor didn’t tell me that and I learned that when I joined AIDES three years ago. I find it monstrous that not everyone knows about it. Because it removes any serophobia in relation to possible contamination.
A lot of boys ran away from me, not very brave, knowing that I was HIV positive. It scared them. If we had known that before, I don’t know if I would have said it, because I am like everybody else. Me, I’m proud. I’m proud to be the way I am, to have won, to be like everyone else. So I don’t tell everyone because I don’t have it as a banner, but when you talk to people, it comes very quickly. I say that I am HIV positive and I am very proud of it.
What would you say to someone who has just found out they are HIV positive?
Don’t panic, it’s nothing. You are not going to die, there is no risk. You just need to go to the hospital. You will be very well taken care of. They’ll put you on medication, you’ll go to the hospital every six months, and you’ll have to take one pill a day, that’s all. You’ll live, don’t worry.
How are you getting involved today?
I said to myself, I will testify to my survival, my life and also help people living with HIV. And so, I joined the AIDES association. Since then, I have been a volunteer on the Parisian territory and elected in a place of mobilization.
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