Sex, Love and HIV
I had visited Atlanta for leisure and had met him through a mutual friend, who had spoken very highly of him. That night, after many drinks, we drunkenly got a hotel and aggressively begin to explore each other's body. At the time, I did not consider myself versatile, nor had I entertained the thought of being penetrated. But tonight was different. As we lay with our bodies firmly grinding against each other, he cradled and kissed me, and I let him. The pressure of his body against mine further hardened my manhood. He was aggressive and confident in his movements and guided his penis where he felt it belonged. Without even uttering a word of a condom, I allowed him to penetrate me bare.
The initial pain was immense, but a newfound pleasure soon emerged. I was moving into uncharted waters, but nothing about it felt dangerous. He was patient and understanding that I was a novice. At that moment, I trusted him and had given him a luxury that I had never awarded anyone before. Correction, two luxuries. Some virgin ass and some of the freakiest raw sex imaginable. There were no boundaries that night as fatal attraction had taken over and I was out of my element. The pleasure continued to build, with every stroke, as fatal attraction prevailed. However, in the process, no attention was given to the fact that I had failed to protect myself from someone who I had just met.
I returned to Tallahassee, a few days later and from that night, we began spending countless hours on the phone together, laughing about senseless things, and promising each other the world. I was consumed in the connection we were developing and often pondered on my future being our future. We talked about everything, from his childhood background to his stance on versatility and he agreed that we could flip roles with no issues. Everything seemed perfect, except for one thing. During a conversation, he had expressed to me that he was not fond of protected sex. He shared that it felt unnatural to him and was a hindrance to his sexual pleasure. He also explained that he was not completely sure of his status as he had performed risky sexual behavior in the past with previous sexual partners and with me. This conversation occurred on the cusp of six months of visiting each other and having countless encounters of reckless sex. Why had I risked my health for so long? Because he seemed very trustworthy and because of this, I negated any thoughts that betrayed that trust.
He eventually moved to Tallahassee for a job offer, and I started spending more time with him. Yet again, nights continued with us spending countless hours together, with many moments of drunk, unprotected sex. Despite any suspicions that I had, I continued to compromise my body for the sake of companionship. One night, I begin experiencing body heat changes and cold sweats throughout the night. A few days later, frequent headaches that aspirin could not resolve---began. I had never experienced these symptoms before, and my mind began to speculate as to whether I had contracted HIV. Despite my fears, I was afraid to confront them, afraid to look a doctor in the face to learn the truth.
Shortly thereafter, I was laying in the bed of his apartment while he was at work, and a voice in my head suggested that I search his apartment for answers. I resisted, thinking that this action would be an obstruction of his privacy. But, the voice became stronger and more prominent as the hours progressed. Finally, in retaliation, I jumped up and started to explore the complexities of his private world. It did not take long before I found a bottle: a bottle which would change the dynamics of our entire relationship forever. It was Atripla, the most common medication prescribed for HIV. With the bottle in hand, I retreated to the bed. Why had he betrayed me? How could someone who proclaimed to love me, willingly and repeatedly have unprotected sex with me with no regard to my health? I was hurt, perplexed, and outraged. I just could not fathom how he could comfortably commit such an action, with such an omission of guilt. I also knew that I was partially to blame as it was my responsibility to protect myself and I had failed. My emotional state was indescribable. It was possible that the one fear that I had was coming to pass.
When he arrived, hours later from work, I confronted him with the bottle, and he responded erratically and emotionally. It took hours of argumentative conversation for him to admit that he was indeed positive, and had been for over ten years. In a frantic state, I rushed to the clinic to learn my status. The clinic ran a series of tests and determined that I was HIV negative, but, I had, in fact, contracted Syphilis. All the symptoms that I was experiencing were the result of the Syphilis virus being active in my body. I received a series of penicillin shots over the course of a month and went on with my life.
This information was confirmation that he had voluntarily lied to me about his status and his deception along with my negligence had landed me in the clinic. This story represents a number of similar scenarios that many of us have experienced. We have repeatedly trusted our health with men with no regard for the possible consequences. HIV has become a prominent mainstay in the black, gay community and it is time to rethink our approach to how we protect ourselves. No longer is unprotected sex a viable option, particularly when the status and the detectable viral load is unknown of the individual one is intimate with.
We have to understand that although HIV is no longer a death sentence, it's complexities stem much further than the physical. The mental state of an HIV man is often perpetuated by their flawed upbringing, societal obstructions, such as stigma, and the prevalence of the lack of adequate healthcare in Black communities. We have a responsibility as a Black, gay community to support our fellow gay brothers by empowering them to seek knowledge on their HIV status and discontinuing the counter-productive agenda of shaming those who are living with the virus. Prevention and unity are our greatest resources to finally put an end to an epidemic that is still invading our culture and community.