The first time I remember hearing about AIDS was in 1985, I was 10 years old and in the 5th grade. I remember my teacher talking about how it affected the immune system. I think the next significant discussion, for me, was in 1987 when the issue of AIDS was dressed on the television sitcom Designing Women. There were the updates of the spread of the epidemic, the discoveries of how it was transmitted, and who was truly affected by it. Then in 1992 a good friend of my parents was diagnosed. I remember hearing how his wife treated him, the concerns about how long he would be around, and what would happen to him.
My parents never treated him differently, my mom still hugged him, my dad still joked around with him and I still enjoyed being around him. He was still the same friend that we had always known. He got remarried to a young woman who also had AIDS, and they had what they called their miracle baby. She was born without the virus, this would have been around the time that research was showing that babies born to positive mothers could be negative as long as they did not breast feed. What an amazing occurrence that was.
I went several years with really no thought of HIV/AIDS. I was 22 when I came out and was introduced to this whole new world of gay culture. Who knew that there were so many gay bars and so many gay men in Denver and the surrounding metro areas, I sure didn’t. I was newly out, overweight, and had a very negative self image. Bars were not really my scene, I loved going dancing and the environment but did not meet my, shall we call them, “physical” needs.
This was also right around the same time that internet chat rooms started becoming popular. Now that was my arena. I was prime bait for those older guys that wanted some young fun. I was new to all of this, curious, and horny….. ALOT!! I rarely ever used a condom when I was hooking up, I didn’t think about it, and most of the guys did not want to use one.
The first time I went and got tested was strictly peer pressure. I had went with my best friend to get tested, she had experienced an alcohol induced lapse in judgement and was worried about having contracted and STD. She asked me if I would go with her to local STD clinic to get tested. While she was checking my friend in, the nurse asked me if I wanted to get tested. I promptly said “NO”, they harassed me into it.
After the exam, blood draws, and all the other violations of my personal space, I was informed I could call in 3 days to get the results of all the tests except for the HIV test. For the HIV test I would need to wait a week and actually have to come in for it. I decided there was no way I was going to go back to that place. I forgot about the tests altogether, that is until I was talking to the same friend I went and got tested with. She told me she had called and everything was good, they had even given her the HIV results over the phone. I was surprised by this being that they told me I would have to come in for the HIV results, she said to me, “Oh, that’s only if it comes back positive.” She was pressuring me to call and get the results, I told her I really did not even want to know.
After being badgered for several hours I agreed to call and get my results. So the next day I called, gave them my name and they gave me the results of all except the HIV test. They told me I needed to come in for those. I immediately panicked, I called another good friend of mine at work and told him that I needed him to go with me. I explained what had transpired, he did what any good friend would do and comforted me.
I got to the clinic and they me and my friend in a waiting room. A nurse came in and greeted me, she was smiling and full of cheer, I on the other hand was sitting crying and waiting for my death sentence. She told me she had the results of my test, I wanted to her to just get on with it. Then I heard the words I was waiting for: the nurse told me that my test came back … NEGATIVE!!!! All this pomp and circumstance for a NEGATIVE test. I was, however, elated. She asked me what I was going to to do to keep my status the same. I swore I was never going to have sex again. She laughed and told me to use condoms. I promptly went out to the bar that night to celebrate my negative test, I had another celebration of my negative status later that night. So much for swearing off sex.