Our lives represent a series of calculated risks.

Everything we do carries some whisper of danger, generally at a level we deem acceptable in contrast to the rewards it offers. We drive ourselves to work or the gym, while somewhere in the back of our minds, we’re cognizant of the fact that over 30,000 motorists die each year on American highways. We savor succulent cantaloupe during our lunch hour, despite the fact that over a dozen people died in 2011 after eating fruit that had been tainted with listeria. We return home and wash away the stress of the day in a long, leisurely shower – by the way, did you know that statistically speaking, the bathroom is the most dangerous room in the house? We lie with our lovers, knowing that each intimate moment carries with it the threat of disease, unintended pregnancy, cancer, or – if you’re very unlucky or particularly aged – cardiac arrest.

Sometimes we do something more overtly daring, like skiing black diamond slopes or jumping out of a perfectly well-functioning airplane. We may even join the US Peace Corps, knowing that every year sees X number of violent crimes perpetrated against those brave folks, Y number of sexual assaults, and Z number of volunteers who will simply never make it home.

For most of us, most of the time, these things turn out all right. But someone always has to draw the short straw. Statistically speaking.

In terms of HIV risk through sexual contact, oral sex is considered overall less dangerous than any sort of unprotected penetration. The risk could be as low as 1 in 2500. And the risk from fluids during foreplay … well, any time infectious fluids are involved, the risk is non-zero, but it’s relatively safe enough that I’ve never heard a doctor recommend condoms or comparable protective measures for things like mutual masturbation. Now listen up, because this next part is important: anyone who is sexually active should be getting tested regularly and using all possible measures to prevent HIV if there’s ANY risk that your partner is positive, no matter how remote. Full stop. But everyone who’s sexually active is assuming some degree of risk, and with appropriate precautions, many people are fine.

Of course, again, unless you’re that one-in-however-many. It only takes once.

This is the story of someone who equated “low risk” with “no risk” and behaved in a way that’s all too common, especially among young people. She is a former Peace Corps Volunteer who served in Zambia and contracted HIV during her service. My reason for posting this entry is almost entirely to recommend her blog to you. It’s fascinating. Riveting. Honest. Brave. And I think she deserves MAJOR props for speaking out about her experiences, good and bad.

I’m currently doing a 3-week series of lessons on combating stigma in my health classes – not everyone is as open-minded as my neighbor’s children. But if more people came forward the way this volunteer did, it would be more difficult to stereotype and judge individuals who are “living positively.”

So without further ado:

No Going Back. There Is Only Forward.

I am 25. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt… and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned… my path has traumatically and dramatically changed… but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together.

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