John Jaruzel was tested for HIV in 1986 and came back positive. At first he thought he only had a few years to live. But now he’s living a busy life.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – About a year after the first HIV test became widely available, John Jaruzel decided to do one. It came back positive and fear was the first thing that came to her mind.
He said he thought he would only have one or two more years to live, but that was 1986.
He had decided not to tell his family right away. His mother had passed away before he tested positive, and he didn’t want his father to worry about his health as well.
“But I always felt bad that I didn’t want my dad to have to deal with the death of a child,” Jaruzel said.
With proper medication and personal care, Jaruzel has been living with HIV for over 30 years. And he is not the only one to have experienced a positive diagnosis.
The Tennessee Department of Health estimates that approximately 1,000 people in Knox County are living with HIV and with the right treatment, they can live more comfortably.
“In the late 90s and early 2000s, they started getting better drugs with fewer side effects,” Jaruzel said.
And drugs and research continue to improve. Dr Dan Ely, who works with the University of Tennessee Medical Center, said people diagnosed with HIV can live almost normal lifetimes. Many can still eat out, visit friends, and all the rest without fear of risking their lives.
He said taking HIV drugs is less complicated than when they are released, and many people living with HIV can take one pill once a day to stay safe.
For Jaruzel, a single pill is not enough.
“I’m currently taking five different drugs at this point, mainly because of my history of taking ‘drug A’, then ‘drug B’, then ‘drug C’,” Jaruzel said.
While taking several pills, he says he is doing very well. He said he is an avid cyclist and rides Tennessee’s variety of trails, goes outdoors regularly, and relaxes in the great outdoors.
And as people continue to be diagnosed with HIV, Jaruzel said he has hope for the future. First, he said he wanted to see the transmission between people end. Then he wants to see a cure for anyone who tests positive for the virus.
“It’s a future we look forward to,” he said.