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If one were to ask me six months ago my thoughts on being in a relationship with someone who was HIV positive, I would have responded that it wasn’t an option. From a young age, I always imagined myself having the ‘fairytale’ ending. Well, the fairytale that always seems to be portrayed in media, at least. The handsome, well-groomed, great mannered gentlemen; three kids, two dogs, luxury cars, a four-story house with a green carpet of grass…all concealed by the security of our bordering white picket fence. For years, I’ve been daydreaming of the fantasy. Being a gay black male, however, my parents found it necessary to remind me that life was going to be hard enough considering I would already have those ‘three strikes’ against me. With the silent whisper in my mind, I made it a point to never involve myself, or get caught up with something that could potentially put my fantasy lifestyle in farther reach. As simple minded as it may seem, I always assumed that contracting HIV would be equivalent to putting a loaded gun to my head and pulling the trigger. Death to the luxurious lifestyle; a suicide to ravish reality. An HIV negative and HIV positive persons could never coincide together, I would tell myself. Looking back, I realize that it was a mere lack of education and knowledge that brought me to this elementary conclusion.
It wasn’t until three months ago that my ideologies began to quickly change. I met this amazing guy who seemed to have all of the qualities that I was searching for, and countless more. He made it a point to be very open and honest about his lifestyle, and quickly shared his status of being HIV positive. It may seem odd, but the mere fact that he was willing to be so open and honest shortly after our introduction was very reassuring to me. Just in that one statement, he showed more self-confidence than I could ever hope to have. It was in that instance that I knew it was time to be more open minded, trustworthy, and take a chance on love…a chance on true happiness. A few weeks later, it was apparent that he was becoming a much-needed positive – no pun intended – influence in my life. He was patient with me, showing great interest and care in my well-being, as well as his own. This allowed me the time to take into consideration all that would entail in being involved in a sero-discordant relationship. Engaging in conversation and activity with someone who was HIV positive, which once seemed like a detrimental mask, was only a small blemish – per se – in realizing that my real life fairytale was coming true.
With a quick press of the fast forward button, I am grateful to say that he is still in my life; with hopes that he will remain forever. Being an advocate for HIV awareness, he has educated me tremendously on the pressures of living with HIV. While we have not yet had any backlash of negative stigma surrounding our relationship, I feel the time may be approaching for me to be open with my close friends and family about our sero-discordant relationship. A part of me still feels a sense of anxiety, wondering how others will view us, or quickly pass judgment. I contemplate on a daily basis over when is the ‘right’ time to share the news. But knowing that I have him in my corner to help weed out the negative opinions of others is making this internal battle all the more easier. When I look at him, I don’t see or think about HIV; I’m simply reminded of all the characteristics that make him a wonderful individual. I know this is only the beginning of the journey, but I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather take this adventure with.
Moving forward, we have made it a point to maintain open communication in all aspects of our relationship. Staying on top of one another about getting tested regularly, maintaining healthy eating habits, and staying active are towards the top of the list. We have also been discussing methods of practicing safer sex. Aside from the frontrunner of condom use, PrEP has been a big part of the discussion. If used correctly, PrEP can greatly reduce the risk of contracting HIV. After recent discussion with my doctor, as well as, educating myself on the costs and benefits of using PrEP, I think this will be a major benefit for our relationship. My only advice for those who find themselves in a similar circumstance is to keep an open mind, but be honest with yourself about the struggles of the future. Educate yourself, as well as others, because with knowledge, each day is another step forward in winning the battle of the HIV epidemic. Be kind to others, as you never know another individuals feats and triumphs. And finally, stay humble and be fortunate for all that you have been blessed with.