I will never let fear rule my life or ruin my happiness but, let me tell you, fear has had its moments in my life.
The first time I was asked to share my story was several years ago, at the University of Guelph for about 100 students in a sexual behaviours class. Just walking into one of the lecture halls, it was like stepping on to many movies sets. It was intimidating for sure. Seeing all of the students filing in one by one, I started to get nervous.
Lucky for me, there was one other speaker and she had been doing it for many years. So, I got to watch someone with experience. I could feel my heart pumping as I waited my turn. There was a microphone that was supposed to clip onto our shirt but it was broken. We had to hold the little thing in our hand. I hoped I wouldn’t drop it. The students were told that they could ask questions after each of us spoke but there may be some questions that we might not feel comfortable answering.
After about 45 minutes sped by, it was now my turn. I grabbed the mic and introduced myself. I was surprised it was going so well. I had stopped most of the shaking and my voice became more clear as well. I noticed some of the students writing things down so I was expecting some questions. I know I should have shared more but under that type of pressure, for the first time, I wanted to tell it honestly without having notes or reading it. This is where the questions helped.
I don't remember all of the questions but one in particular had taken me by surprise, It made me really think. "How would you feel if you were in a situation where the condom broke?" What a loaded question! At the time I didn't have an answer. I could only say that I knew my status and I would do whatever I could to protect my partner. I knew that I didn't want anyone else to have to live with HIV. I may not have disclosed to the other person but I wasn’t going to do anything risky and always used protection.
Today, I can say that I have been in that situation. I have had to deal with that fear and, yes, it was a fear of mine. I was out to the bar with someone and we had had plenty to drink. We ended up going in different directions part way through the night. He was into drugs and I wasn't, so when that crowd was around he would disappear. About four in the morning he finally found his way back to the apartment.
To make a long story short, I should have refrained from having sex that night. He was stoned. During sex he kept taking the condom off me. By the time we were on the third condom, it broke. He was aware of my status. For me it was over, he wanted me to put two on and continue. I immediately said no to that. To top things off, I was holding some of his money so he wouldn’t blow it all in one night. He was just trying to satisfy me so he could get me to give him some for more drugs. I wanted to talk about what had just happened. He just got up and said it didn't matter and he left to go back to his other friends. For the rest of the weekend, I tried to advise him that he needed to go and get tested. I even spoke to his roommate about that. I had to know.
Because of his drug problem, we didn't continue seeing each other much after that night. I have tried to keep in touch with him but was only able to contact his roommate. I learned that he has been tested twice now and he was HIV-negative. I have to say, this was the most traumatic thing I've had to endure since testing positive, waiting to hear the results of his tests. He, however, just laughed it off and said that if I had infected him I would be stuck with him the rest of his life.
As I write this, I ask myself what if I hadn’t known my status or what if I were negative. Would I have been so afraid? Should I have been? I hope my answer would have been – “yes!”