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Getting started

Language is a strange thing. It does not matter which language; each has expressions that do not seem to make sense initially. One example is irreversible. There are few things left that really are irreversible; think judgments overturned or marriages dissolved by divorce. But when your doctor gives you an irreversible diagnosis, you should take it seriously. And here is where language starts to get funny: these diagnoses are usually called positive, even though the news itself is extremely negative. One infectious disease even is connected by name with the expression positive: HIV. What in the world could be positive about being diagnosed with an HIV infection?

The virus has been my constant companion for more than twenty years now. At the time I was diagnosed, the disease was a death sentence. Today, though still incurable, HIV is at least treatable. Nevertheless, today a positive HIV test result still is a cruel twist of fate, because probably no one is ever prepared for such a blow.

If you want to know how to live with the virus, you should ask a person who is infected. If you ever wondered how to lead a satisfying life with the virus, you should read this book. But beware: some long-cherished preconceptions may have to be abandoned. Nevertheless, this book does not contain a universal panacea. It gives insight into my story as well as my thoughts and feelings about the infection and what I have learned in the last twenty years. It is personal, it is subjective – and in a way it is also provocative. It gives an overview of the situation in Germany; some problems may differ from other countries, some problems certainly are similar. One thing is sure: a certain viral count in the blood is not yet a reason to die. There are so many ways to die, not only HIV. So let’s get started with a retrospective and an optimistic look at life beyond HIV, beyond the virus.

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MATTHIAS GERSCHWITZ

Beyond the Virus - cover