It had been 3 months since I downloaded my first video, "My HIV/AIDS Story", in August of 2016, and answering the questions/comments had become part of my daily routine. I soon realized I needed to do follow-up videos (Parts 2, 3 and 4) to consolidate my replies. I focused on who gave me HIV, how I was never contacted when he found out he was positive, cost/access of medication, follow-up doctor visits, and any misconceptions people had about things I had said, the most controversial being that "HIV wasn't a big deal" for me. This rubbed several the wrong way. For me, the regimen of 1 pill a day and feeling completely normal was a complete relief after suffering from AIDS. I wanted people to know that I felt like myself again (normal) and the perceived misconceptions about HIV, including my own, were way off from the reality of what it was today.
Viewers' questions about my symptoms were, by far, of most interest. Afraid they had been exposed, terrified to test, people of all types, from all over the world were desperate to know if their symptoms compared with mine. Was there a need to worry? Should they test? Do I think they had HIV based on their symptoms? It was nonstop. They were self-diagnosing and asking my advice with the desperation of someone about to walk the plank. It was crazy, within weeks I had been thrust into this position of confidante, educator and counselor. My word meant more to them than their doctors', I replaced their Google search for HIV. Since I had lived this horror of AIDS, they assumed I held some sort of intuitive knowledge. One man even thought I should be able to cure HIV, he thought that was entirely possible since I had it. What a world I had entered! I just strapped myself in and went for the ride. You name it, they were explaining details to me of their exposures and consequent "symptoms". I was concerned about taking on this task of helping strangers through this process, alleviating their fears and giving them advice that maybe only a doctor should give, but at the same time, I felt the need to answer each and every person who contacted me as best I could.
This led to the making of "My HIV/AIDS Story - My 16 HIV Symptoms" video. I needed to start from the beginning, about when I thought I contracted HIV and go from there. The trail of doctors' visits and symptoms tells quite a story; my symptoms were textbook HIV, but they were overlooked time and time again. It was there, all along, diligently working its way through my body, making me sick. I could remember up to 16 symptoms in total, including all of my AIDS related symptoms. I forgot to add that I had frequent urination during the night, like a diabetic, as my CD4 count plummeted and my viral load skyrocketed. One of my last symptoms mentioned on the video was suffering from phantom smells. This symptom has become the most speculated amongst viewers and has led to two doctor ordered MRIs and two YouTube videos on my channel explaining what they found. It's been a fascinating journey to say the least.
Overall, I feel my video created awareness and educated many, but it also stirred up more HIV anxiety due to the fact that so many symptoms look like HIV, but aren't. I filmed this in my room on a sunny day, just turned on the camera and talked. I had no idea this video would be seen a half million times in a little over a year. I'm pretty darn proud of it. I hope you enjoy it also.
Love and hugs, Jennifer xo
Watch this video on Jennifer's YouTube channel.