When Christians get HIV

HIV positive.

Imagine what hearing that news would sound like . . . “We’re sorry, sir, but the test came back positive for the antibodies against HIV. You are HIV positive.”

I’ve never heard those words, but my friend, Rick, has. Rick is a medical doctor. Well, he WAS a medical doctor. In fact, he was a bit of a hero among doctors. He was an emergency medical responder; one of the first people on the scene of a disaster or emergency. The kind of people that put themselves at risk in order to save those in desperate need.

And it was one of those risks in 1989 that changed his life forever.

In the middle of a medical emergency, Rick was withdrawing blood from a man that was confused and combative. As he pulled the needle out, the man jerked, and Rick was stuck in the arm with it.

What Rick didn’t know that day, but feared most of all, was that this man had received the HIV virus through a blood transfusion back in 1982. Being a diligent doctor, Rick tested himself for the next several months. Nine months later, the test came back . . . positive.

In 1989, there wasn’t much to be done for HIV/AIDS. The drugs available today hadn’t been invented yet, and so for two years he did nothing while his HIV levels climbed off the charts.

A year after contracting the disease, his employer fired him for being HIV positive. The very job that had GIVEN him the disease was now firing him for HAVING the disease.

After five years of living with the disease, Rick’s wife decided she couldn’t handle it anymore and took his son, moved out and divorced him. Rick said he understood and supported her in the decision, but that it was one of the darkest days in his life.

So, Rick and I sat for coffee a few weeks ago inside a small Starbucks up in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. For hours, we talked about life, sports, family and eventually the disease.

Rick lives in Seattle now. He doesn’t have a job. His time is so consumed with organizing and taking the many anti-retroviral drugs (ARV’s) that he must take at specific times each day (38 different drugs each day) to keep him alive, that he has no time to work. He lives in a small apartment. Has no transportation. No family around him to support him. By all human standards, Rick should be a miserable, bitter and angry man.

But strangely, Rick is full of LIFE . . .

I think what most surprised me about my friend Rick is the purpose with which he now lives his life. He volunteers his small “free time” speaking at public schools about the dangers of HIV/AIDS. He works with a group called LifeLong in Seattle that case manages AIDS patients. He packages condoms into “safer sex” kits to be handout around Seattle. And on Thursday nights, you’ll find my friend, Rick, sitting inside a non-marked gay bath-house in Seattle, surrounded by a lifestyle he doesn’t condone, handing out these kits to any guys that will take them on the way in.

At a time when life would seem to be over, Rick thinks it has just begun. Not that there haven’t been real hurdles. Not that he hasn’t tried to give up. Not that he hasn’t called into question a God that would allow what has happened to him in the first place. But, on the other side and through a lot of struggle, he has found a purpose and a passion to his life that few others (especially the healthy) ever find.

HIV positive.

If you ask Rick, it was the worst news he ever received. It completely devastated his life. But, the funny thing about Rick is, if you listen long enough, he’ll tell you that now he knows it was the best news for everyone else.

Because his life took this unexpected turn, he has learned to trust God and get involved in what God is doing to help others. In Rick’s own words, “If I never had gotten sick, I would still be a doctor, making money, but not trying to do my part to save these people.”

Rick is teaching me a lot about what it means to love. And he is teaching me a lot more about what it means to really LIVE life on this earth.

As another of my friends has often said, “I don’t care about adding days to my life anymore, I’m more interested in pursuing life for my days.”

Or as another friend of both Rick and I once said: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” – Jesus.

In fact, Jesus not only said this once, he is quoted as saying it in all four gospels (twice in Luke, actually). It is one of the few sayings of Jesus that was apparently equally memorable and important to all four individuals who documented Jesus’ life in the gospels.

But, maybe it wasn’t just memorable. Maybe it was reality.

Rick would agree. And so would I. And so many more people in our churches and communities could experience “life to the full” if they believed it too.


29 thoughts on “When Christians get HIV

  1. I’ve always had the life verse of Ephesians 4:1, which states living life to the fullest, but have never really lived it. I try to seize every moment that I can, but when I hear a story like Rick’s, my life doesn’t seem to be reaching the mark. May Rick’s story challenge all of us to find our passion and live our lives to glorify God through that passion.

  2. Wow. I don’t know what to say. Lessons for my own life I suspect. I tend to grumble about the unfair things in life.

  3. It was the worst news for me when I heard my doctor was saying about my sickness but now after 10 months that I know I am HIV positive many things changed in my life and I realaized God has a perfect plan for me too:)

  4. Well, I just found out today that I am HIV+ and the news is shocking but my faith in God is all that I have left. I lived a lifestyle displeasing to God and as a result of my actions I have acquired the virus. It is unfortunate that under these circumstances I was only willing to completely submit to his will. I stand now with open eyes and an open heart for God to use me as only he can. I surrender.

  5. Hey Rick, I am 24 and was diagnosed 2 years ago with a debilitating autoimmune disease. I can relate on some level to what you are going through. I completely lost my life as I knew it and experienced total surrender. Despair came, then surrender, despair, then surrender. This has been on-the-job-training for the habit of seeking Christ. His word is where he is found. “Cast your cares on the Lord and he will sustain you; he will never let the righteous fall.” psa 55:22. Thats a promise!
    The resurrection is coming! Until then, God has a lot for you to do; and the promise is that it WILL BE worthwhile.

  6. i ve been leaving with hiv for 12years. it has not been an easy road but it has also being a worth while race. having hiv is not the end of the road but the begining. i ve found my purpose in life and learnt to depend on God. i live a full life free of sickness because the word tells me by his strips am healed. gloria

  7. Hey im so touched by the story, Ive been living with this stigma since 2002. I feel like i can go out there and do something to encourage other Christians like me that God is alive and we mustnt fear devil….

  8. i belong to Jesus and i am an ex bi sexual believer that has HIV … i live in boise idaho and it sux to live here with hiv … i cannot find any other christians here that are open about having hiv … i am alone
    in my life none of my friends understand what it is like to walk in my shoes .. even though they do try to understand… sometimes i wish God would just kill me i hate being alone. and in pain … tired all the time … i take meds and exercise eat right do creative things music art etc … its not enough
    i am alone 85% of the time … no job no money … sometimes i think God hates me … but i do know He doesnt .. its still a struggle .. i wirte this to say thanks for posting this story … i too lost it all … family friends good job … home etc … but i do have abetter relationship with Jesus … oh yes ive been beat down by the church around here too … its all ok they mean well .. i forgive … i found that God uses us weak people to confound the wise … i get to pray for many sick people and many get healed set free breakthrough … etc etc… all that … all the while i still have to carry this disease msotly alone
    i wish i could move to seattle or somewhere where others with hiv live so i can have some new friends that can relate … i guess we all al have a place to work people to reach … i too speak to the youngers to use protection … i was one who said .”that will never happen to me” i was wrong hiv doesnt discriminate … so if you are a christian & have hiv/aids and you are reading this and you have other christian friends around you that are the same … have joy in that some of us are not so lucky
    remember to pray for me if please… alone yet not alone … weird hhh
    God bless you all!!
    daniel tilton

    • Hi im a Christian with strong faith and now I find myself living with the reality of AIDS .
      However God will sustain you too and new treatments , one pill a day and less side effects are here Now.
      I would tell people you feel are open minded just dropping suggestion to see there reaction and getting involved in local HIV support groups and continuing with your life and hope in Salvation .
      God does not hate you he is bending closer over you sustaining you in your crisis and we all die sooner or later , so use each day as best you can,
      Regards Stuart Glasgow

  9. Hi everyone. I found out I’m HIV positive about 2 weeks ago. This was the result of my rebellion against our creator in which I’m feeling utter guilt, regret and shame. I haven’t told anyone about my condition and I’m not sure whether telling anyone would be a good idea. I’m very lost and depressed at the moment. I hope someone here can help. thank you very much. my email: fredertan@gmail.com

  10. Thank you for this story. I am hiv positive Christian lady , social worker. I have not been fired from my job, but I have to endure discrimination.

  11. That’s an inspiring story. I recently found out the I’m HIV+. I’m struggling with the reality of the diagnosis. I’m 33 and a Christian guy and I’ve had a bumpy road in my faith. I fell off the path really bad. My actions and choices have led to this. I’m in shock, disbelief, and denial. I’ve thought this would never happen to me. How could I have let this happen? But right now all I can really do is to turn back to God and Jesus and focus my life to Him. I feel alone in this right now, though I’m trying to hold onto my faith and trying to live my life to the fullest and to stay healthy.

    I’d love to talk to any one for support. I really need it.

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