Just Another Number: HIV & Ageing by Mark Julius

When HIV and AIDS first became apparent, it seemed like a Pandora’s box had been opened and all these evil things escaped to do terrible things to people in the world. But if you know your Greek mythology you’ll know that, despite all the terrible things that were unleashed into the world from Pandora’s box, there was one thing left in there after everything else had escaped. That one thing left was hope.

Getting older is beautiful for me because I am alive. I know it’s not the same for everybody and I know I’ve been lucky, but I have an outlook on getting older that really gives me a boost if ever I get down or anxious about my (HIV) status. Age is just a number. Life is full of numbers. Some numbers are nice and bring you joy and happiness, especially the 6 numbers you’ve chosen in the lottery on a Saturday night. Then, there are those numbers which are less welcome: viral load; T-cell counts; neutrophils.

I’m 52 now, that’s a number, so are 22 and 30. 22 is how old I was when they told me I tested (HIV) positive, and 30 is the number of years I have lived with it. I am still here and I am far more positive than the virus could ever imagine. I’m really looking forward to being positive for 31 years next year. I might even throw the virus a party and bake it a cake.

Weird? No, not really. The point is that with every year that passes it’s another year lived. Another year shared with my partner and family. Another year playing the violin in the orchestra I have played with for 23 years. Another year of going to the cinema each week with my 19 year old nephew, something we’ve done since he was 4. Another year spent with my friends in my quiz team every Thursday night. Another year working on my novel that one day I will finish. Another year of baking and cooking like a deranged Nigella Lawson. Another year of paying parking tickets, taxes and bills.

Getting older doesn’t bother me but then I’m fit and healthy, I’ve had advantages in life. How would I feel if I didn’t have a supportive family, a close network of friends, and a supportive partner. I like getting older. HIV is a hitch-hiker I picked up 30 years ago who’ll never get out of the car, but I can at least I can stop it from getting hold of the sat nav, the steering wheel or the brake.
My life goes where I want it to, that road map is mine. The HIV can come along for the ride but I’m in charge. It really is true when they say that age is a state of mind. It’s not just the HIV that is positive with me, it’s my mindset. I have to live with HIV but I don’t have to be dominated by it. After all, as Confucius said: “You will never stop birds from shitting on your head but you can stop them building a nest in your hair.”

©2014 Mark Julius