Hi I’m Hartsel and I live in Atlanta, Georgia. I graduated from high school in 1987 and I was going to go into the service. You have to take the physical. They have to do tests and everything so I take all that. I passed the aptitude test with flying colors but instead I get letter in the mail telling me that I’ve tested positive. And I would not then or ever be considered for entry into the service. And I cried and cried, and I was sure that my next breath was going to be the last one. I didn’t know where to turn, who to talk to. For sure, I considered suicide. For 13 years I lived without being in treatment until I actually had to get treatment. I became severely anemic, severely depressed, and given the low point that I was at back in 1988, today things are so much better. I finally learned to love myself and gave myself a chance to see how strong I really am. I’m about to move into a new place that I’m very very much excited about and I have a partner who is just as cool as he can be and it’s real nice. We laugh a lot together, a lot together, we talk a lot together too. One of the coolest things is that he can talk for hours about nothing in particular. He brings a great deal of care that I didn’t know I’d find. 23 years later, after testing positive and now in treatment, my health is wonderful. I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. My advice is to stay consistent with medication, stay consistent with your doctor’s appointments, and love yourself. I’m Hartsel and I’m Greater than AIDS.
When Hartsel was told that he wasn’t able to join the armed forces because he tested positive for HIV, his world fell apart. He was expecting his life to go one way, and it just took a turn he wasn’t expecting. With time and support from loved ones, he has been able to rebuild his self-confidence and remind himself how strong he really is.