This excerpt of an article By David Duran is republished from TheBody.com and first appeared here.
I had just opened up to him and told him my deepest, darkest secret. He wasn't the first person I had told, and he wouldn't be the last, but each time I reveal my HIV status, it takes a lot of inner strength and courage. I'm very open and vocal about my status, but even so, saying those words to anyone still messes with my mind.
After the initial awkwardness was over, he asked, "Do you know how you got it?" Wait, what? Did I just open myself up to possible rejection only to be sidelined with an even more private inquiry into my life? He wasn't the first person to ask how I became HIV positive, and his way of asking wasn't uncommon or even in the top contenders for the most insensitive way of asking, but his question led me to cringe, while simultaneously doing a mental eye roll.
I am all about sharing how I became HIV positive, especially if my story will provide a sense of comfort, help someone relate or even educate others. But it's my story to tell and I will tell it at the right place and time, when I decide it's appropriate. If you're someone I am just getting to know, it's completely inappropriate to inquire about that, especially right after I disclose my status. Regardless of how I answer, my response will have an impact on how you view me.
"I just wasn't using protection and being promiscuous." OK, so now I'm a whore. "I became positive because at one point in my life I used drugs and it either happened through the sharing of needles or unsafe sex." Now I am a drug user and a whore. "My partner cheated on me." Now I'm just an idiot for allowing it to happen. "I'm not exactly sure how or when it happened." Now I am all of the above.
What answer is the questioner looking for? What answer would stop the questioner from casting shame upon me? Opening up and sharing my personal story and history shouldn't be something to shy away from, but for me, the details of how I became HIV positive are nobody's business unless I choose to make it their business. I don't deserve any additional guilt or shame to be thrown my way because of a single moment in my life. For all this person knows, the moment is forever ingrained in my head, or possibly, it has been causing me anguish for years because I have no clue what happened.
A story that involves what many perceive to be a more "non-guilty" answer -- a cheating partner or something similar -- usually immediately elicits the "poor you" pity parade. I also don't need your pity or consulting. If I just came up with the courage to disclose my status, I have obviously already dealt with my emotions enough to be able to utter those words. Shoulder-shrugging while you pat me on the back and tell me it's "going to be okay" won't help me much.
To read the rest of the story go here.
About the author: David Duran is a freelance journalist and writer based in Brooklyn, N.Y. You can follow him on Twitter at @theemuki.