Taking Back My Power
Thank you for your contribution to the HIV Disclosure Project
Hi, my name is Rob. I’m a 55 years-old gay man and was diagnosed HIV+ in 1988 and AIDS in 1992. Several years ago, one warm summer night I decided to go out to a local gay bar. I went out alone, but knew people in the bar. I met a nice guy. Here’s my disclosure story.
I met “Sam”. He’s a teacher. I like teachers. At the time, we were the same age, 39 yrs old. We had a great conversation about a wide range of topics. We laughed a lot. I felt we were “hitting it off”. We drank [very little], even danced a bit, which is rare for me. We said “Hello!” to a few mutual friends. As the evening progressed, we even stole a kiss here & there. Sam asked me back to his place nearby. I told him that there’s something I felt he needed to know. Suddenly, we both got very quiet.
I told him I was HIV+. He asked me if, I knew who I “got it” from. I said yes, as I did know the man that infected me. He asked me if I was angry at the guy and I said no, as I wasn’t angry at him. He asked me if I “simply was HIV+ or had AIDS”. I told him I had AIDS. Sam then proceeded to tell me he was “uncomfortable” using a condom, as it “reminded him of HIV and was a real buzz kill.” I told Sam that I practice safe sex and always use a condom. That conversation appeared to clear the air as Sam decided taking me home “wasn’t a good idea” and he left.
After a few stunned minutes, I got angry with him and with myself. Why hadn’t I asked him his HIV status? Why didn’t I tell him that he was exposing himself & potentially others to HIV and a host of other sexually transmitted diseases by not using a condom? Also, that he was okay with risking MY health & his in not using a condom. Why did I say I had AIDS! Why didn’t I use that conversation as a “teaching moment”!
Because I was shocked at his questions. Because the evening was, up to that point, going in a laid-back, fun fashion. Because saying “I have AIDS.” is a big deal, to me still these many years later. Using the word “AIDS” to me, would be a “buzz kill”. Then, I got angry at myself for being angry at myself. Why did I feel as if I let him decide if we’d have sex? He was willing to risk MY health. AIDS is a disease. See the heart/ the person behind “the word”. Lessons learned. Since then, I know my HIV numbers: T-cell count, viral load and I ask questions too! Taking back my power with the asking. Respect myself – protect my self/body.