Less than a month ago Janet posted about HIV disclosure and criminalization on this blog. It’s a complex social justice issue fraught with many, many shades of grey and I’m not going to step foot into that legal labyrinth at this point. I will, however, share my personal struggles with disclosure.
I was diagnosed HIV positive in the spring of 1994. It was so traumatic I can remember the exact time – 12:42pm. The whole day is frozen in a capsule that I tend to pick up and inspect with far less frequency as the years pass. As you can well imagine, it was shocking news and in an attempt to get away from the grief in all my friends’ eyes I drove across Canada and set up a new life in Vancouver. I would soon learn the grief came with me, as I only needed to look in the mirror.
I made a lot changes to my life in those early years after diagnosis. Most of them were very healthful and empowering. I quit smoking, I engaged in therapy to address a lifetime of abuse, I delved deep into a spiritual discipline, I returned to university and perhaps the most impactful of my choices: I embraced celibacy. I remain celibate today. It has been 18 years.
Initially my choice for celibacy was in reaction to feeling terrified of infecting someone, and so, I closed myself off from any and all physical intimacy. As I began to educate myself about HIV and become more comfortable with the virus I grew more at ease with being positive yet I was still not ready for a physical relationship. As the years passed I settled into celibacy and it stopped being a conscious choice.
The sting of HIV is mostly diminished in my life, but there are times when I am still haunted by it. Last year was one of those times. I was content knowing I would be single the rest of my life and I was certainly not looking for a partnership. You know where this is heading, right? Uh huh. I met someone who blew me away. He took me completely by surprise and all my dormant female hormones sprung into action. My chakras whirled in celebration.
We flirted but never took our attraction anywhere. It was over as fast as it began. Well, nothing between us even began. But I woke up and took notice of a different life! It had been a long time since I had connected to my alluring female energy. My goodness, fully inhabiting my body is amazing. You know what I mean? That amazing feeling of walking down the street with your head held high, with a gentle curve in your back, and your stride long and loose. You know it. The sway of your hips. The rise of your breasts. Blessed be. I love being a woman! I joyfully find myself ready to be with a man again.
And this is where I collide with the fact that I will need to disclose my status to the person I choose to be with. One of the benefits of celibacy is I don’t have to tell anyone. But now I’ve gone and complicated the plot because before I become sexually active I will tell my partner I’m HIV positive. You see, I was infected by a man who knew full well he was positive and he kept that knowledge from me. I will not do the same.
I think about that exchange I’ll be having in the future. I go over conversations in my head and with my friends. When do I disclose this information? Probably not really first date material. Second date? Maybe. I’ve been on a few dates recently and I can gauge a guy’s comfort with STIs generally and HIV specifically when I toss out what I do with my life. I sit on the board of directors for the Canadian AIDS Society and I work at Positive Women’s Network. Those two things open up a discussion. So far, I’ve been pleasantly surprised, but I haven’t had to have that difficult conversation to date.
Quite simply, the thought of disclosing to someone I care about and am interested in being with petrifies me; therefore I’m kind of thankful the situation has not presented itself. But it will. It’s inevitable and in that moment I will need to draw on all my HIV transmission awareness, my yogic breathing techniques and my unfathomable reservoir of courage. I keep reminding myself that when I do find myself ready to disclose it will be with a person that I have come to know and it will be with a person whom I already trust. I will still be shaking in fear, but I will disclose.
This was posted on Friday, February 17th, 2012 at 12:24 am and is filed under Body Health, Education & Resources, HIV and the Law, HIV Prevention, HIV progression, HIV stigma, Media, Risk factor, sexual health, Spiritual and Emotional Health . Feel free to respond, or trackback. Read our comments policy.