Life with HIV: Geoffrey

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I was first diagnosed at the age of 22. And I'm now 28. So I've been living with HIV for six years now. It was an extremely dark, scary moment for me. And I thought it was the end of my world.

I'm a hairstylist and a makeup artist. I meet tons of people on a daily basis. My initial outlook was that I'll forever be single, that dating is going to be a question that I may not ever get an answer to. I thought my career would be over, because I am coming in direct contact with people as a hairdresser.

Over the past six years, I've actually grown tremendously. My thought process on being someone that's living with HIV has made a 180 degree turn. I would say, over the past four years, I have started to truly understand what I need to feed my body, in order for it to fill its best. I just have a better understanding of what I need to do to ensure that my body is 100% in good standing, so that I'm able to remain healthy with a healthy HIV status.

Being diagnosed with HIV at 22 really helped me mature and get a better understanding of what I needed to do in life. Thinking that my life was over-- my career is over-- wasn't reality at all. Once I finally started being comfortable in my skin again, everything just started falling into place. Doors started opening. Things started happening.

I've definitely seen a change, over my six years of being diagnosed, when it comes to the stigma that stands with HIV and AIDS. I work at a beautiful salon, where everyone loves me. And I'm just in a completely, positive, uplifting mindset.

It feels amazing to continue accomplishing the goals and dreams that I set out for myself, especially being in the public eye, in contact with people. Because I'm at such a happy place that nothing about my life has had to change, other than taking a pill every morning to make sure that I remain undetectable. It's such a great feeling to know that HIV doesn't conquer me. I conquer HIV.

It is not who I am. It's just a part of me. I just have to check in with my doctor regularly, take my medication.

So for those that are recently diagnosed with HIV, I just want to say, take a deep breath. Breathe. It's going to be OK. It does get better. It's not going to control your life, as long as you control yourself, your mental state, your physical health. You have people around you that love you and will care for you regardless.

We're going to get through this. Talk about it. Talk about HIV. It's not scary once you have a good understanding of what you're dealing with.