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I was only 23

It has taken me many years to come to this. I was diagnosed with HIV in 1988 (I was 23) - a little after my partner (then 30) was diagnosed with HIV. We were both nonscene (that means not on the gay circuit) and living in this lifestyle gave us both a false sense of security to the fact that we were immune to what the media labelled a gay epidemic. I know I was infected by my partner because he was the first for me. After finding out he left for a holiday while I dealt with our friends and family. I left work a few months later and six months later I ended the relationship . I travelled for two years doing all I wanted to do from hiking through the Yorkshire moors during a storm to running amuck in Italy. During that time I met an American reporter who was to give me back my self esteem and to show me it was ok to be intimate and have HIV. If it wasn‚t for him I would have kept scrubbing myself frantically in the shower with soap every time I washed. After two years I was ready to return to Sydney. At 25, good looking and recently returned from overseas it was all ok to be HIV and I was enthusiastic to begin again. It was to be a decline for me. Slowly people forgot about HIV and I turned to a scene I had neglected for support. The HIV support groups were not really helping me as I found it hard to understand/relate to certain issues that seemed to dominate these meetings. I entered into an eight year relationship with a guy who was just coming out and it took me some time to realise that he was not faithful and that I was at risk. My awakening came when I suddenly became ill and was diagnosed with large celled non hodgkins lymphoma. I was so ill I received my life insurance payment. I resisted chemotherapy so radiation therapy took priority. During my stay in the Aids Ward I decided I had to survive this and that I needed to be independent . I sat for my drivers licence when my hair was falling out in clumps and I went through Sydney University for four and half years to complete a Graduate Diploma and a Masters degree before I left my boyfriend, my home and my comfort zone. I had many pills with many side effects. I started my new job by throwing up in the morning and aching from a bloated stomach. I was single, living alone and feeling bad. I had a DNA test that recognised I was immune to most HIV drugs so the drugs i am on now work and I am not ill at all. I am know 36, have a little scar under my armpit form radiation and surgery, still good looking and in a singles scene that had changed during my 8 year relationship. I realised another horror - the internet chat rooms. I am amazed at how far men have devolved as humans. I find that many men world wide strive for the body beautiful and one of these requirements is stating that they are HIV negative, AIDS free, STD free, clean or any other word that describes them as do-able. Funny how all these chat rooms have empty HIV chat room areas yet the other rooms are full of gay and "curious straight guys" who want to be barebacked. I stopped penetrative sex after one try with my boyfriend back in 1988 and have been safe ever since. 2003 brings to me isolation. I have strived hard since that day when I was just 23. I have never forgotten how I was lucky to meet an American journalist at a time I wanted to curl up and not exist. The memory of that guy has kept me sane often and i have looked for him in many men. Having HIV to me is scientific and somewhat fascinates me still. It is the stigma that is making it impossible for people like me to live a life without lying or role playing something I am not. I did not strive to just exist to work and pay rent - I want to live with love in my life as well. The other day a mate I haven‚t seen since my 20's asked me if I was a "top" or "bottom". I said neither and that I have not had a relationship where I had the chance to explore except for one unfortunate attempt. He settled on labelling me "versatile". I was then told that it was not HIV that makes men not want to have a relationship with a positive guy, it is because the pills make HIV+ men loose their sex drive and to have erection problems. So this is the face of HIV in 2003.

 

Sent via email Feb 23 2003, Sydney Australia

 
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