“I Lost Everything Within A Day” Of Disclosing HIV Status.

by Cody Walker

My name is Cody Walker I’m from Satartia, Mississippi, it’s a town of about 80 people and close to The Delta right outside of Yazoo City. In 2010 I met these 2 guys, Steve and Bob. They were really, really sweet guys, we hit it off really well. I was a house boy at the time, so I had spent some time with them, I spent a couple months with them then I moved back to Mississippi and then from there I moved to Memphis. One day in Memphis I got this phone call out of the blue from this number I didn’t recognize and it was Steve telling me that they wanted me to be the third person in their relationship. So at the time it seemed like a really great idea because these are people that I’ve known for a year and a half now, two years almost, really sweet, nice guys. They were starting a new company that I had previously worked with that was getting bigger. So I thought it would be a great idea to start a career with them. They told me I would have a house, I’d have a work–a company truck, I’d have all of it. They went to work, I went to work, we came home, had fun, it was great. And then I started feeling really tired all the time and just didn’t understand what was going on. So I thought I was homesick. And I hadn’t had an HIV test or an STD test in a while so I was like, “Why not?” In a new relationship it’s always good to get tested. So I went and got tested and found out I was HIV-positive. So when I got back to the house that day, I walked in the door and I lost it. They asked me if everything was okay and I told them, “No, I had gotten a diagnosis that I was HIV-positive.” And there was a pause, we didn’t speak to each other for about 30 or 45 minutes. And then one of them, Steve tells me, “Let’s go outside and talk.” So Steve asked me to go on the patio and we were sitting out there talking, smoking a cigarette and he tells me that he thinks it’s best if I find another place to go. So I was told I had a couple days until I could figure everything out. I mean, how do you figure something out when, first off, you get diagnosed with HIV, then you’re told to get out within hours, then you’re told you’re not going to have a job, you’re told you’re not going to have a vehicle anymore. So all I had literally was the clothes on my back. And I had to find somewhere to move to, had to find a job, had to find everything. But I had lost everything within a day. Six months after my diagnosis, I moved to Yazoo City, or Bentonia where actually my family is from now. And I really wanted to get out because I was so ashamed and so afraid of what people in small town rural Mississippi were going to think about me. I felt nasty, I felt gross, I just didn’t want to be around it, I didn’t want to be in a small town. The effects of the stigma in a small town started to hit me. I started to get text messages on Facebook, I started to get literal text messages and people asking me when I would see them out, “Hey, I heard you were HIV-positive, is that true?” or “Hey, I heard you had this, are you clean?” I’m like, “What does that mean?” And it slowly started adding up. And it got to the point where it was every day someone would be like–I would see people walking and talking and I would think they were whispering about me. Over a span of a year and a half, between a year and a year and a half, I attempted suicide three times. On the third suicide attempt, my friends finally told me that I was better than this, that I could rise about it, that I can’t do that to myself or my family anymore. So that night I decided to admit myself into a mental rehab for 5 days. But I asked for one thing before I was, like, the night of, I asked for one thing before I was admitted: “Could I please just call my mom and post one thing on Facebook?” So I posted that I was HIV-positive on Facebook. I let the world in and told them if they have a question, they can ask me when I get out of rehab. I would not hide behind it, I would not fear from it, I was going to hit it head on. I find it so amazing to be able to put that out there. Because once you put it out there people can’t come at you, it’s there, I have nothing to hide, I am not ashamed of being HIV-positive by any means. We all have a story to tell, but it’s the way you end that story. With HIV, you can live a long, long life and a long, normal life, whatever normal is, you can live a long one. There’s a pill a day, that’s it. One pill a day. You brush your teeth every day, you take your pill. Being HIV-positive is not a death sentence. That’s the main thing, you will live. And there are days where you’ll probably be depressed and upset and angry, but fight. Fight hard.

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