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Monday, November 29, 2021  

Anna’s Story: A very special kind of lovePublished 2/28/2005

Anna lives in London, England and was kind enough to correspond with me by e mail about her very special relationship with her partner Michael, a relationship filled with all the love, romance and care that Valentines Day conjures up.

Anna is living with AIDS and used to think that nobody would want to have a long term relationship with her due to her HIV status. She described feeling that she couldn’t imagine anybody’s idea of an ideal partner being somebody with "an incurable sexually transmitted disease and depressive tendencies." Anna had waited a long time for a relationship as it was very difficult for her to come to terms with her HIV status and to learn to live as healthily and independently as possible, something that did not leave a lot of time for love, or so she thought.

Anna’s friends provided her with good support and enough love to make her feel valuable and wanted but she eventually began to long for a relationship that would grow and one that she could grow with. A friend introduced her to Michael and Anna found herself filled with happiness and expectations for the first time in many years. The first six months were both exciting and difficult. Michael uprooted himself from his home in Glasgow, Scotland and moved in with Anna in London. However, things did not quite go according to plan. "We wanted to be together but this didn’t mean it would be easy. "

Michael thought that he would be able find work quite quickly, but this didn’t happen. So, for the first in his life, he found himself unemployed. He was also denied unemployment benefit. Being unemployed played havoc with his self-esteem and sense of identity. He felt trapped in the house, too broke to take advantage of the culture and art that London has to offer, ands sick of doing mundane household chores. Depression set in. The financial pressures started to build up as the couple had spent all their savings and more. Amidst all the stress, Anna’s T4 cell count began to decline, she began to suffer night sweats, nausea and vomiting, dramatic weight loss and severe fatigue. Three months later she was hospitalized with PCP pneumonia and a definitive AIDS diagnosis.

Anna’s doctors began to swop and change her medications, trying to find the right combination for her. Many of these her terribly ill and she found herself increasingly depressed and angry.

Her relationship with Michael continued to falter and the couple faced eviction from their home due to not being able to pay the rent. Thankfully a social worker stepped in and helped Anna to apply for further sickness benefits so that she could keep her home. "Sometimes it was hard to be honest with myself about what I was really angry about, and even harder to be honest with Michael." Anna went on to describe how difficult it was to trust that Michael would be there should her health continue to decline and felt that she would almost rather face the prospect of illness alone than to risk the chance of Michael "running off when things got rough." She had managed to convince herself that he would not be strong enough to see her through serious illness and certainly not strong enough to watch her die, something she felt was inevitable as her will to live was growing weaker.

Upon discharge from hospital following her pneumonia, Anna’s care was finally transferred to the Kobler Center at London’s Chelsea and Westminster Hospital, one of the hospitals at the forefront of HIV/AIDS research in the UK and she describes the wonderful doctors and nurses who "worked tirelessly and lovingly to find a retroviral combination therapy that finally began to work." She slowly regained some of her strength and, according to her, some of her sanity. Michael finally found work and the couple began to slowly work on trust issues. "After all, he was still around wasn’t he?" says Anna. Their relationship slowly began to strengthen once Anna realized that he was not going to run out on her and that caring for her during illness was part of his very great love for her. "He is the person who sees how hard I sometimes find living with AIDS, how much energy it takes to get my head around it, how exhausting it can be to be me and how I can sink into overwhelming depression. He looked after me when I was exhausted, shaky and panicky from diarrhea and vomiting so violently that the bile stung my throat and the spasms in my stomach had bent me double. Then, he went in search of a pharmacy for medicine on a Sunday morning. "

Anna goes on to describe Michael as the man who held her while she sobbed uncontrollably, angry at having AIDS, at the fact that they may not grow old together and mourning all the things they might not have done.

"He reminds me that I am here and this is now. "He is the man with whom I can be me, with all the vulnerabilities and complications that I bring. Sometimes, when he looks into my eyes, I can feel him holding my soul and I tingle from the inside out. We fit so perfectly onto and into each other it’s as if we were made to measure."

Anna and Michael continue to live happily together in London, England and Anna’s health has been stable for over a year with an undetectable viral load count. She describes reaching the point "where you have to take the bull by the horns and life by the short and curlies and make things happen, not letting anything get in the way. Not fear, not stigma, not rejection, not getting it wrong, not being let down, again, not distance, not difference, and definitely not HIV." Michael remains HIV negative. Perhaps love really is the greatest medicine of all!

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