Am I Still Good?

Martina Clark
5 min readJun 5, 2022


Am I? I don’t mean good in the behave yourself kind of good, because, well, anyway. I mean good as in viable, stable, edible. Okay, I’m not edible, but I do seem to have outlived my use-by date. By a few decades, I might add. If I was living in the back of your fridge, you’d probably be inclined to toss me. Also, you’d have one big ass fridge. My point is that I’m still here and I never thought I would be.

Typing on orange background reading “Expiration Date” with several dates crossed out.

In early July of 1992, the specialist who confirmed my HIV-positive status told me I probably had a good five years to live. That was 30 years ago. Today I am a long-term survivor and considered to be aging with HIV. I’m probably labeled somewhere as a geriatric case. And yet, after my grim prognosis three decades back, I’m still here.

In December of 2000, I backed out, last-minute, from a speaking gig where I was to share my HIV status because I realized that the context of the event wasn’t right for the community at hand and my being their first “public face” of HIV would likely have caused more chaos than benefit. In the local paper the following Monday, it was reported that I didn’t speak because I had died. I didn’t. My reported death is now old enough to drink, yet I’m still alive. I’m still here.

By the fall of 2008, my body decided that it might be fun to get in on these pranks of screwing with my use-by date. I’d been burning all of the candles at all ends with wicks that I didn’t even know I had. Burnout would be mild compared to the ashy pile of exhaustion I’d become. My body was beginning a rapid decline to teach me that even though I hadn’t needed HIV medication for the first 16 years of my diagnosis, I was not exempt from illness. My numbers on lab reports skyrocketed and spiraled in all the wrong directions. Without treatment, this time, my actual use-by date would rapidly be upon me. I started treatment and I’m still here.

Thirty years later, I’m now 58 years old which is about 22 years older than I ever imagined I’d be.

Turning 30 — just two years after diagnosis — was a blessing as we did not yet have viable treatment for HIV/AIDS and I had no sense of my future.

My 40th fell on 04/04/2004 which felt like a magical day to celebrate a milestone birthday. I was still managing HIV without treatment and I felt like I was a unicorn warrior, invincible.

Until I wasn’t.

But then I was again five years later after starting treatment. Thank you Auntie Retrovacarus, our healing goddess, for making that happen.

50 was a blast. Some of my favorite humans on the planet gathered at a bar in New York City to celebrate my day, surrounding me with love. There was cake and champagne and giggles and hugs. So many hugs. Oddly, I felt younger at 50 than I did at 30 or 40. I suppose I was both happier in my skin with the benefit of age and experience, but also less uncertain of what my future might hold. None of us truly knows what to expect as our lives tick by, but I finally felt confident that my HIV was to be treated as a chronic illness. I was very much living with HIV rather than fearing to die of AIDS as I had in those early years.

And today, June 5th, 2022, it is HIV Long-Term Survivors Day and I’m a part of this new demographic of those aging with HIV. I’ve had HIV for 30 years and I’m still here. STILL. HERE. I’ve also had COVID — original recipe from spring 2020 with the long-COVID internal scars to prove it — yet I’m still here. In recent years I’ve started to experience age-related issues as I round-up on 60, which feels like a mixed blessing, but a blessing nonetheless.

In these decades I hadn’t anticipated having, I’ve lived a very (too?) full life. I’ve noticed this is a trend amongst the long-term survivor crowd. When one is told early on that they won’t live long, one tends to either retreat entirely — like the legend of the elephant graveyard where elephants go off to die alone — or we never stop doing. Doing things. Going places. Helping. Yelling. Advocating. Doing and making every day count and then sometimes even feeling guilty if we take a day off from our doing to just recuperate. It’s a weird journey.

After two years with COVID, 30 years with HIV, 45 years of working, and nearly 60 years of living this full fat cram-packed life, I’d like nothing more than to retire to a quiet place among the redwoods and catch up on my backlog of reading. But, alas, I still have much doing to do. One day, I’ll curl up in a reading chair and slow down, but not yet.

I keep doing to stay ahead of the tiny sharp voice in my head that occasionally says “Don’t forget, HIV can still fuck up your life and kill you”. I keep doing for the hundreds of friends and acquaintances who’ve died of HIV or AIDS over the years because who else will, now that they’re gone. I keep doing so that I can help prepare the next generation for whatever their battles will be. I keep doing because I feel that I must.

For whatever reason, the universe has decided that I’m going to be here for a while despite outliving my many use-by dates. I am the luckiest person I know.

My love goes out today, and all days, to everyone living with HIV and to all who have lost someone to this disease. You are not alone.

You can find more of my writing at



Martina Clark

My book, My Unexpected Life: An International Memoir of Two Pandemics, HIV and COVID-19, published by Northampton House Press is available in print and audio.