A story for Estonia: on happiness and HIV

Tom's story is a story like many others. He told his to Convictus Estonia, an NGO which offers psychological help for HIV-positive and drug addicts. Tom's story is telling of a reality in which gender, drugs and HIV are entangled in one human experience. Talking Drugs is commited to exploring such stories and to reproducing them in order to trigger a debate on how sex, gender, family, drugs and HIV shape specific private and public worlds: in this case, Tom's life.

'Hello! My name is Tom. I am 33 year old now.

I have been thinking what should I write about. I have been collecting my thoughts and just couldn’t bring myself to writing, something inside me was stopping me. First, when I was offered to write about myself, my living, and becoming what I am now, it seemed much easier to show you my thoughts, my feelings about what was happening to me. But it turned out to be much harder, I had doubts what should I write about. The banalities everyone have read or heard about? You can hardly surprise anyone by that, let alone receiving compassion. And then, accompanied by all these thoughts, there emerged the great desire to speak out, to unbosom my feelings.

I ,by no means, seek any sympathy or compassion towards me or people like me. I just want to say that back at that time there was no one to talk to me about that. I am HIV-positive. I had a common life, like the life of any person. I was born in Tallinn and have been living here ever since. Careless child- hood, studies at school, sports, child’s dreams. Then came love, family, children, work, home, where I was loved and welcome. What else does one need for the entire happiness? I had every- thing! But no, it didn’t suffice, I needed to spice up my life, I needed some adrenaline, some excitement… Drugs gave me this adrenaline. It all started with a small dose. First there was a mere interest, then drugs took control over me and drew me in. What is important – I liked it. Of course I had doubts about it. I knew it wouldn’t end well. I threw onto the scale everything I had: my family, my wife with children, the well-being of the home where I lived, the relations with my relatives, close people. On the other scale I threw the bliss that gave me rose-coloured world. And I chose this rose color, removing all doubts by the confidence that I was able to control the situation. I was sure nothing bad would happen as long as everything was within reasonable limits. That is what I thought and I was sure in my strength. But there are curtains for everything… No bliss anymore, only pain. Due to this pan there began unscrupulousness in liaisons and means. And here is the result. Everything is lost, there is only HIV and prison ahead. And the thick fog of helplessness. I learned I had HIV when I was passing the tests in prison. Subconsciously I was ready to learn the news and that’s why I wasn’t really shocked. I was shocked later, when I saw people’s attitude towards HIV-positives. One might as well put on the shroud and a bell, as it was done with the lepers years ago. I don’t want to describe all that has happened all these years since the day I received the results of the HIV test. This is my fault and no one had incited me to do that. Yes, it is true. But I am not going to thrust my opinions on anybody and prove what is right and what is wrong. I just want to say – people, look back. I realized one thing – I have committed a great mistake, yielding to temptation, but I have paid for it completely. Now I am turning inside out all my life, I am reconsidering my views on what has happened to me. I realize I can’t bring back the pure past. Now I have only present with me, I want to live.

I understood that I am not alone in this world. There are people who need me, despite everything. They believe in me. I am grateful they exist.'