Friday, September 19, 2008

HIV/AIDS: My story...

I wrote this a long time ago on the blog I wrong for the then AVOC (and you can see the original post over there at their myspace account ). I was back reading for another blog I'm working on this evening and I found this, and it always bears repeating...


MyStory: Why I am where I am -- Barry's story

My brother introduced me to HIV. We were both in high school and he had donated blood at some student council event. I couldn't donate because I was having sex at that point, and really enjoying it (and the American Red Cross would not accept the blood of a man who has sex with men). I had been finding myself in places and situations my mother most definitely would not approve, and doing behaviors that I now identify as "high risk." No one had talked to me about condoms at that point.

But it was my brother, the senior, who said the letters H-I-V to me first. I suppose I know what they meant because I didn't ask, but this is the first memory I really have of understand.

So I remember my brother, standing in the kitchen and laughing at the letter that was sent to him from the American Red Cross: "I don't have HIV." My mother laughed with him. I shrugged it off. I didn't connect HIV with sex, drugs, or even gay people at that point.

Four years later, I was a sophomore in college. I was a closeted out gay man. Everyone knew, but I didn't know anyone and I had fallen into the trap of I was using the web service as a means of finding some sort of connection with other gay men. My roommate was there all the time, so my furtive searches were few and far between, but they were there every moment that I was alone. And every time I found something -- because who could turn down a lonely, somewhat attractive, energeetic, eager-to-please 19 year old college student?

I'm not saying I was preyed upon, but I made myself the prey.

I met a guy. We'll call him Hugh. He must have been 38 and suffered from psoriasis of the skin, but he was somewhat attractive, owned his own house, was interested in dating me (imagine me, finally dating after not having anything I could call a boyfriend since I was sophomore in high school). I would have a boyfriend.

Of course! Of course! I would love to! Of course I would love to come over every day! Of course I'll ignore you comments that demean and degrade me! Of course I'll ignore that I am completely dependent upon you for my mobility! Of course! Of course! Of course!

I let him fuck me.

I had never had anal sex before. I was a 19 year old with 150-200 sexual partners, most of whom I couldn't remember and 99% of whom I didn't even know the first name of, and I had never been fucked. And he did. And I bled and I bled and I bled.

But no one had talked to me about HIV and I didn't know, but I knew I could get something... I think. Right? Something.

I remember the first time running to the bathroom and trying to wash it out. There was no condom; no one had ever talked to me about condoms. I tried to douche with soap and water; no one had ever talked to me about anal douching. I know I did a lot of crying that first time -- it did hurt -- but it went away. And it happened again. And again and again and again.

That was me, a 19 year old getting fucked for three months without a condom by a guy literally twice my age with psoriasis.

But it's ok, he says he likes me and wants to date me.

(All of this would come back years later, when I thought I was stronger when I accepted the constant comments on my size from a new boyfriend -- how wonderful my fat was, how much fatter I was than most, how much he loved my fat and could I have more -- and developed my own little case of anorexia. Things that go around...)

But we never dated, although I asked again and again. He just fucked me. Sometimes once a week, sometimes seven times a week. And each time, I think I bled. I remember blood, but it may simply be the stain on my memory and a fear that lingers with me.

Finally he said, ok, we can date, if that's what you want. Three months later, him promising to date me, and it's now what I want. But let's get tested first. I guess we missed a step in there.

It was my first time being tested and I was negative, but I remember being scared. I remember telling the cute blonde girl at student health services everything I was going through and everything I had gone through and letting it feel cathartic. And although I don't remember her responding to me, I remember identifying for the first time: I have a self-esteem problem.

Self-esteem is a funny thing because it's so masked in social work and that kind of feel-goodisms some people get into. I had a real self-esteem issue and I was following a 38-year old man with psoriasis around because he was the only one who I thought would love me.

I was negative. It was beautiful day, and the sun was shining. I remember feeling like it was ok, like the world was ok -- sure the lady said come back in six months to get tested again just in case, but I was negative.

This is the situation with a lot of people who get tested for the first time, save for one major difference:

He was positive.

He was positive.

He was positive.

And I cried because I remembered the cum and the sweat and the blood (oh god, the blood... and could you get it from tears or sweat because there was a lot of that too). I thought I was crying for him, but I wasn't.

He was postive, and he was 38.

And I was negative, and I was 19.

And I never saw him again because now he was concerned about me getting it.

Now he was, because I was negative and nineteen.

And he was positive.

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