There was this guy called Brad, and one day he found something he could never have dreamed of - he was infected HIV-positive.
He found out when he was 16 years old. Brad played for the volleyball team at his school. Every year, he had a medical before starting his training.
That time, Brad was called into to see the school doctor for a private talk. It turned out to be a moment he would never forget. A lot of things were explained to him, but he only remembered that one phrase: “You’re HIV-positive.” The feeling was one of plummeting down from a very high building. “What is aids? This has to be a mistake,” he thought. But it wasn’t. He had no idea how he had caught it. Neither he nor any member of his family was part of one of the risk groups. He went over the issue in his mind for hours on end, but gave up after getting nowhere.
Brad has little recollection of what he did over the next few weeks. He was angry at his doctor for smiling at him when she talked about his therapy. Brad should have listened to her more attentively, because she was explaining something important. All he got was that he had to take some pills to extend his miserable life for a few more years.
Then there was that horrible talk with his parents. Brad loved them, but they had always been distant. Although they were kind about it when he told them, he sensed the disappointment in their eyes. He knew deep down that they thought HIV was something only bad people got.
Brad expected no support from them. He became afraid to leave his house, because he was scared he’d be bullied or infect someone else. He knew, of course, that he couldn’t give someone HIV by just sneezing on them, and that his status was entirely confidential, but the situation made him irrational.
And so Brad shut himself away in his bedroom, only occasionally emerging to go to school. He forgot all about his volleyball training. Sometimes, his parents would come and try and start a conversation, but Brad knew what they were really thinking, and had little interest in talking. He lived a lonely life split between his computer and the TV, imagining that the walls were slowly closing in to crush him.
After about a month of this, Coach Stephens turned up to find out why he had quit volleyball. He thought Brad was ill and wanted to help. Brad had vowed to never tell anyone, but the hours of silence led him to blurt out: “I’m HIV-positive, okay? I’m going to die soon, so just leave me alone!” His coach looked at him with a serious expression and said: “No need to shout. You know, I’ve been HIV-positive for 16 years.” His words hit Brad like a bucket of cold water. He’d never realised that there might be other people like him out there. Coach Stephens then explained the idea of antiretroviral therapy, along with other things his doctor had told him about but which he hadn’t been able to take in. Brad cried like a baby.
Coach Stephens promised to help him. He talked to his parents, explaining things they would otherwise never have understood. He got Brad back into volleyball training and introduced him to an HIV teenage support group, where he met new and very supportive people. Brad’s life is far from perfect now, but he’s learned to appreciate what life has given him. His parents are now more supportive, and are learning to be more open. He’s more responsible, both towards himself and others. All this is thanks to Coach Stephens, who gave Brad hope. Now, Brad wants to give someone else hope too. That’s why he’s decided to volunteer to help other teenagers escape the misery he found himself in.
Brad has a way to sum up his situation: Instead of feeling HIV-positive, now he just feels positive. He knows he’s not alone, and that he has people around him to give him strength. And there’s one other good thing. Five years ago, he met a young woman who became his soulmate. Two years ago, she agreed to become his wife. Last week, she gave birth to his first, entirely healthy daughter. Brad has no way to express how happy he is. If only he could have known what lay ahead of him six years ago!
How did I find out that I have HIV + 0:05
I talked to my new doctor 0:55
Talk with my parents 1:15
I locked myself alone 1:50
Coach Stevens came to me 2:17
I was crying like a baby 3:14
I decided to volunteer 3:50
A private one thing 4:15
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