“Undetectable viral load…”
It is all I can think about. I can’t get the words out of my head. Although the e-book has told me what undetectable viral load is, I am not quite satisfied. I want to know all I can about it. It’s like finally getting admission after writing jamb eight times. It’s like winning the visa lottery. You know that feeling you get when you come home and your newly-wedded wife tells you she’s pregnant? Aha! That’s it.
Wait, my readership are gay men (and women). So, of course, most of you don’t now or intend to know that feeling. lol
Anyway, I’m not trying to quantify life or anything of that sort. I just want you to feel what I felt, or at least have an idea. The situations I just mentioned all have one thing in common. Can you guess? You probably can’t, because you’re not standing where I am standing. Well, I will help you. They all have this in common. They all either give you the chance of having a better life or moulding one. In general, you get to live a better, happy life.
Now that is exactly how I feel. I feel like I am perfectly okay. Like nothing is wrong with me. First of all, let me explain the concept of ‘Undetectable viral load’, lol. Typing those words alone makes me smile sheepishly. It’s magic indeed.
Let me start with ‘viral load.’ Now, I’m guessing I’m talking to people who know what a virus means. If you don’t, I’m so, so sorry for you. Viral load simply means an ‘amount of viruses. It’s usually represented by a number, and it varies for each body fluid, that is blood and semen. The amount of virus in the blood is different from the amount of virus in semen. So, for instance, we can say viral load is the amount of virus in the bloodstream.
‘Undetectable viral load’ means the amount of virus in your bloodstream is sooo fucking low. It’s sooo fucking low that you cannot infect someone else with the viral particle for them to turn HIV positive. Maybe y’all need a crash course on Microbiology to understand this fully. Or you can google it. What you need to know is this. When you have a viral load that is this low, and you maintain it and you stay far away from other STDs, you’re gonna live a fucking long and awesome life.
So finally, I can just live my life. I can just fuck when I want to. If I am dating another HIV+ guy, and we both are STD free and are adhering strictly to our meds, we could even do it raw! Yaaaaaaaas! Raaaawwww! Skin to skin! Body to body! Soul to soul –
Okay! I am not launching a HIV-patients-should-fuck-raw campaign, seriously I’m not. Because life never just make things that easy, not even for a HIV patient. Life has a way of applying the rule of checks and balances. In this case, it comes in the form of what is called the Super-infection. Super-infection is when you’re infected with a particular strain of HIV, and then you get infected again with another strain, different from the one you already have. So it’s HIV raised to the power of 2 for you. If this happens to you, someone in your village really wants you dead. Don’t blame HIV for that one. But the good news is this: super-infection is very rare. Life is a bitch, abi? lol
Mr. Help is like a guardian angel. He reminds me of my school father. Mr. Help is a doctor, based in the UK for that matter. Such a catch, yes? Well, sorry for me! He’s not single. Mr. Help and I have formed a friendly bond already. I can say he knows me to an extent and he never forgets to check on me.
Mr. Help: Hey dear, how you doing?
Me: I’m fine, dear. Hope you slept well?
Mr. Help: I should be asking you that. Did you exercise this morning?
Mr. Help: Oya start… Send me pics.
Me: It’s late nah, tomorrow please.
Mr. Help: Promise?
Me: I promise. How’s Kenny Brandmuse?
Mr. Help: He’s fine. I will relay your greetings.
Me: Remind him about the site he gave me. I haven’t gotten my login details.
Mr. Help: I will, dear. So what are your plans? Masters?
Me: Yeah. Always wanted to do my Masters abroad, but never knew how to go about it.
Mr. Help: Where do you want to specialise?
Me: Public Health.
Mr. Help: That’s awesome. We need more people. I will send you some links. They are online courses you can do for now. It would really look good on your CV and increase your chances of getting a good job.
Me: Oh that will be cool. Thank you so much.
Mr. Help: I have a job for you. It’s a volunteer job for an NGO. I will talk to my friend there. You can be in charge of your city.
Me: Wow, I’m a bit overwhelmed.
Mr. Help: It all depends on if you want it, but I will advise you to do it.
Me: Okay. Can I have a little time to think about it?
Mr. Help: Sure. Have you registered for those courses?
Me: Yes I have.
Mr. Help: Okay. Don’t forget your doctor’s appointment on Monday. And let me know how it goes
Me: Okay dear.
At this point in my life, I am not scared of HIV anymore. In a way, I’m beginning to feel special. Besides, I have just found out about the undetectable viral load. It is the best good news I have heard lately. I haven’t even started treatment. I visited the Government Hospital on Friday and the doctor I spoke to asked me to come back on Monday. I am going to be retested, amongst other things before I can start treatment. I think I detected my HIV early, so there’s a chance that my CD4 count will still be normal. In this case, some hospitals won’t let you start treatment. But I have a guardian angel. I am indeed special. Mr. Help has told me if the doctor refuses to start my treatment, he’ll give me a paper to give to him, reminding him that I have a right to be treated immediately. Now tell me why I shouldn’t feel special?
Undetectable viral load doesn’t just come to you. You must have been taking treatment for a while, how long a while depends on what your viral load was before you started treatment. I don’t know what mine is yet, but I am hopeful. After you’ve taken the treatment for a while, the amount of the virus in your bloodstream reduces to a point where it’s undetectable; I think it’s about 20 or <20 viral particles per I-dunno-how-many mls of blood. I am not a doctor.
I am eager to start my treatment because I aspire to have an undetectable viral load. That’s how much I want to live. All of a sudden, I feel like things are beginning to fall into place for me. I am so bolstered about my career now. And when I get this inspired – about my career, I mean – there is one person I talk to. Her name is Chidimma.
Chidimma is my course mate, best friend and most trusted ally in school. Even after school, we maintained our friendship. She is the churchy, Mountain-of-fire-attending kind of Christian. A little judgmental; but she is my friend. She is very intelligent, which is why we became besties so easily, and she is the only one in my class who graduated with a first class. She is supposed to be automatically employed by our Alma Mata. But we’re in Nigeria, aren’t we?
Me: Chii, how far?
Chidimma: I dey o.
Me: How the work waka dey go?
Chidimma: That one concern them. I’m not even putting my hope there.
Me: Lol. E get some courses I register for o, I no know if you go like am.
Chidimma: Send me the link make I check am out. I just from Abuja come back sef, me and Ade go for one scholarship interview.
Me: Jesus! When? You get this kain info, you just keep quiet. You see ya life?
Chidimma: No vex abeg, my head just full lately. Make I send you the prospectus. Make you read am.
Me: Okay. But I still dey vex for you o.
Chidimma: Boo-boo, no vex. I owe you one shawarma, e hear?
Me: lol…Okay o
I download the PDF file Chidimma sent me. It contains everything I need to know about the scholarship. The list of schools that partake in this scholarship scheme and the courses each of these schools offer, how to apply, the things that’ll help my application for the scholarship, and I think volunteer work could be one of them.
I am just ecstatic at the way things are unfolding. I view each school and its application deadline. I have time to apply, but it isn’t enough time. I can only apply for the scholarship after I have gained admission into one of the universities. The little time I have just isn’t enough. I decide to apply next year. But I am happy. That is the most important thing.
I have registered for the courses Mr. Help sent to me. And they will really make my application for the scholarship look good. The volunteer work is just the icing on the cake. I have seen movies where volunteer work aided scholarships; life is not a movie, but then again, I’m special!
Maybe you haven’t really seen the big picture yet. May be you have, but maybe you haven’t seen it the way I’m seeing it.
It’s like a light is shining on me, and behold it is David McIntosh. He’s wearing a transparent white apparel as he stands before me. The material is really see-through, and I am looking at that thing you are imagining right now. Then he slaps me and reminds me that this is a holy epiphany. Then he hands me an iPad. I cheerfully accepted the device, and on it is written:
“WIPE YOUR EYES, MY SEXY CHILD
EVERYTHING HAPPENS FOR A REASON
EVEN IF YOU MAY NOT SEE IT INITIALLY
IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE HIV, WOULD YOU HAVE MET MR HELP?
WOULD HE HAVE LEARNT OF THOSE COURSES?
WOULD YOU HAVE GOTTEN THE VOLUNTEER JOB?
IF YOU DIDN’T LEARN OF THE COURSES, WOULD YOU HAVE SPOKEN TO CHIDIMMA?
IF YOU HADN’T SPOKEN TO CHIDINMA, WOULD YOU HAVE KNOWN HOW TO GO ABOUT YOUR SCHORLASHIP? AND NOW YOU HAVE A VOLUNTEER JOB TO GIVE YOU AN EDGE.
IN EVERYTHING, GIVE GOD THANKS.
DONT FORGET THAT.”
That is how I see the big picture. Lol. I don’t want to say, “Thanks to HIV”, but I don’t know what God wants to do with me either. But let’s see how it goes.
Written by Bobby