By Jody Valley
Readers: Thank you to all of you that wrote in to give resource information to the deaf writer who wanted to find a therapist. I sent it all on to him, along with some resources that I had myself. I so appreciate people sending me information and resources or responses to letters that appear in this column. Your experiences, contacts and resources help all of us. Keep it up!
Beauty is in the inside, not outside
Q: I’ve been HIV+ for 19 years and have had an AIDS diagnosis for 15 years. I was 22 years old when I contracted the virus. I have always used condoms, but it broke, and I was infected with HIV. The problem is that I’m devastated by what the AIDS drugs have done to my face. I was so handsome, and hate to admit that I used my looks to get so many things in life.
I’ve dedicated my life to stopping the spread of this horrible disease, and have worked in an AIDS agency for most of my adult life. I give presentations on infectious disease, and am a Prevention Specialist.
When I look in the mirror I cry because of the disfigurement caused by lipodistrophy. That’s where all the fat has gone from my face. I have sunken cheeks and temples and look like skeletor. I can barley look at myself to shave in the morning. I’m so depressed that I’ve been thinking about suicide. I’ve sought help and am currently on Zoloft. I feel that the main reason I’ve been able to live so long is because of my positive attitude and my giving back. My outgoing personality and all confidence have gone away with my looks. I’m having a harder and harder time facing the public, in all areas of my life.
I have a wonderful supportive partner and family and have so much more than most, but it doesn’t seem to help. I know there isn’t any advice you can give me but maybe, if you print this letter, some young gay guy will make sure to protect himself. Condoms didn’t work for me because I thought that using two was better. Never use two condoms because friction can cause them to break.
Also, two things never to say to someone with HIV. Have you lost weight? And, what is that hump on your back?
Thank you from Skeletor.
A: I hope that you will be able to internalize that life is not about looks, but about who you are. Though your looks may not be what you had–and lost, it seems to me that your insides became the beautiful part of you–something you have gained. In the scheme of what I believe life is about, growing, maturing, and making your life worthwhile, you are an incredible success. All the good work you are doing in the HIV/AIDS prevention field has made your life so very meaningfulÉand beautiful. I hope you stay with us and continue your work, and see the beauty in yourself. Thank you for writing, and continuing to help others. I’m always on the other end of my email address, if you need to talk. I care.
It’s the thought that counts
Q: I was laid off from my job, and have not found a new one. I’ve gotten a few odd jobs, here and there, but nothing as far as what I hadÑor anything permanent. I do have unemployment, but that doesn’t go far and will soon run out. Needless to say, I have bills and financial obligations that I struggle to make, and mostly don’t make! I dread this Christmas like I never have before. I’ve always been a lover of the Christmas season, and have enjoyed buying presents for all those on my list. In fact, I love thinking of the person and trying to find that very special item that they would like.
My problem is that I will not be able to have the fun of Christmas shopping this year, unless I go into more debt. Doing that would make me very nervous, but I also don’t want to not give to others. Another thing is that I know that others will be buying for me, and I will feel bad if I don’t have something to give in return.
Do you think I should just tell people I can’t buy them anything and request that they don’t buy for me? Or, do you think I should just bite the bullet and hit the malls with my plastic?
No Cash, Just Plastic
Q: If it were my situation, I would either do some baking, or I’d give out a service, of some sort, to my friends. Like, if they had animals, I could give them a certificate for a weekend of pet sitting. That way, you could use your love of giving just-the- right thing to folks, but this year, it would be a service. I’m sure that people would understand your situation and would really love a service of some sort; I sure would.