It is natural we all want it at some point in our lives unless we decide to forego those impulses and live a life of chastity, but let’s face it, most of us are not going to do that for any length of time thus we are all at risk for acquiring an STD, and of course one of the most dreaded of those is HIV. Many are not testing, and this disease is still spreading, so I think a bit of a discourse is needed, to eradicate the stigma surrounding discussing this disease and discussing the need for intimate partners to test and know their HIV status. These issues need to be addressed in an open communicative and caring way.
I’ll never forget when AIDS hit the news around the beginning of the 80’s, many of my friends in the party scene used to go to a gay bar to watch the drag shows, not to mention they had an awesome sound system and dance floor. It was no big deal for heterosexuals and homosexuals to intermingle socially as well as sexually for some, but when this dreaded disease came about this club started serving drinks in plastic disposable cups. Everyone was confused about how this was spreading, and it really created a rift of fear that spread through out our society. I remember thinking why is my drink being served to me in a plastic cup, only to be told the bar had decided that was the best protocol at the time to take.
Initially HIV/AIDS got labeled as a gay disease, but we soon learned over the years it was a blood borne disease, that could be transferred by not only sex, but by blood transfusions, sharing of needles, and a few other ways. I’ll never forget Ryan White and how this young hemophiliac contracted HIV from a blood transfusion. Then there was the tennis pro, Arthur Ash who succumbed to AIDS. The stories we heard in the news were scary to hear how one could waste away, and contract many ailments a normal immune system could keep at bay.
For me it was a bit scarier because around this time, I moved to near the San Francisco Bay area where there were many gay individuals who were dying from this disease. I had a young child who had a skin condition that caused her to have open sores from rashes she was plagued with frequently. I was a bit freaked out, telling my 3 year to be sure to not touch any blood products in bathrooms, and to cover the toilet seat with sanitary paper. It was tough too, because the child’s skin would rash up so inflamed at times, people would look at her as though she may have some deadly disease. The looks she received at times were horrible, I could only imagine how terribel those with visible signs of AIDS must have felt. Many individuals were getting the purplish spots on their skin, called Karposi’s Sarcoma, so it made it hard for these individuals to cover these signs.
Well, in 1999 I divorced and entered the dating scene, but those earlier years still had made such an impression in my mind. For crying out loud, why oh why I would think, how could this be…a disease that can kill us from having sex of all things, what kind of trick is this the universe is playing on all of us? Of course religious fanatics were saying it was a curse for promiscuity. But give me a break, we all pretty much have a drive to procreate, and HIV does not discriminate. It is clearly not a gay disease! I used to wonder, if nature was culling the population, and if this was some sort of ancient disease that cycles, and if it was some sort of intrinsic design of a natural population control of sorts playing out. Then of course there were the conspiracy theories that it may have been accidentally introduced into humans from animal products used in diets or medicines. Who knows where it actually originated. I once read that there were accounts over 500 years ago of people dying from things that were recorded that sounded similar. At this day and time all we know is what we know, and of course the blood supply is now safer, so that leaves it up to all of us to help stop this disease. No matter whether we are in a long term monogamous relationship or we are single and dating, it is so necessary that we educate individuals to practice safe sex. Now of course condoms can reduce risk, however it is so much better to know your status, so society needs to remove the stigma over discussing and urging people to test by encouraging them to know their status.
For me after divorce, if I dated and found myself in a situation where sex would be involved, I made a decision to always discuss testing, and proceed to offer to test myself as I required my potential partner to test. These conversations at times were very awkward. I remember one time a guy I was dating, when I brought this up, he asked me if I was a prostitute. He would not talk to me for about a month. He acted like something was wrong with me. Certainly ignorance on these matters is not bliss, especially for those who find out they have acquired this life altering disease. Never did I want to have to face that, so I have always asked for testing.
I am compelled to share my take on this, because within the past year, I dated someone who refused to take the test. It made me feel horrible that they would not even care to make me feel safe in their arms. He said he always had routine blood testing. Yet, the truth is unless you have a STD panel done and explicitly ask for an HIV test, it is not part of routine blood testing, to my knowledge. The thing is there is a simple 20 minute home test that can be taken, and is highly accurate if it is taken at least 3 months after sexual exposure. You simply take a little paddle like swab and wipe it across your gums, which remove oral fluid where some cells are obtained, to test for HIV antibodies. You see, over 90% of individuals who have been exposed will be producing antibodies after 3 months. Now if someone has had unprotected sex and it has been less than 3 months, testing may be a good indicator of their status, however not as certain, so in cases like that it would be best to either abstain or use condoms, and test again later.
I was upset at his stubbornness and refusal to test. The percent chance he had HIV was small, however, if you don’t test, you simply do not know your status if you have had unprotected sex. I could not believe him telling me he felt me asking him to test was an invasion of his privacy. I thought to myself, you want to enter my body, inside me in such a most intimate and private way and you will not test over privacy concerns. I guess he was scared, as I tend to think he has had a few unprotected encounters. You see, some people are just in denial about the true risk. He said, he was offended as he felt like I must think he was a dirty person. For crying out loud, HIV does not care if you are dirty or clean, rich or poor, a good person, or a bad person, it is a disease. I started to think this person was just unwilling to understand the true risks out there and was acting ignorant over this matter. However, he is not a dumb person, but I also realized he was not someone I would entertain ever being intimate again with because he just failed to think through this matter logically. Now, if he ever came to his senses perchance I would reevaluate dating him again, but not until that day happens, and I will not hold my breath for it to happen. I just hope one day he gets over the stigma around testing. I realize people just don’t think they need to test for whatever reason.
A few of my past lovers, have told me that I am a bit of a freak over this. Well, I would rather be a freak about this matter to test before sex, as I would never ever want to contract HIV, and look back to know that I could have asked my suitor to take a home test for about $45 and it not take more than 20 minutes to obtain results. Could you imagine the heartache? I can, and that is why I demand testing be done before sex.
Anyone that comes into my life and does not want to face this matter head on and test simply does not deserve to be with me at all. For, if a man cannot protect himself, and be willing to, he could never protect me. Fundamentally for me, I am a woman, and at a heart level I want my man to care for me and be a protector of not only my honor but of my life.
For when I enter an intimate relationship, I am exploring relations with love planted in my eyes, and I will be damned if I ever let anyone potentially plant tombstones in my heart.
Fortunately, we have medicines to help individuals, who have contracted this disease, however they do impact your health and the way your body makes proteins, and can age you rather rapidly. The side effects are not worth it, when all you have to do is discuss this matter, and do it openly, and remove the stigma of this discourse.
Even as I write this, in closing, I cannot help but some may think wow, does she have HIV? No, I do not, because I have cared about not only my health, but the health of others and have demanded we both test before sex. Be safe, and not sorry, your life is not worth a round of unprotected sex, not when it could become a cloud over your life. If you have HIV, my heart goes out to you. I hope cures and better medicines will be on the horizon, and I truly hope you can endure and afford the medicines you need to keep your viral loads low, and that you will have a long and productive life with much love and compassion filling your days.
Much Love to All….if we are sexually active we can stop this disease if we all stand up and ask our lovers, and partners to test. It truly is in all of our hands to confront these issues facing us all, for the love of life, and love of each other just to be able to enjoy the simple pleasures of being a human with sexual drives. It needs to be okay to talk about sex, before sex, and it needs to be okay to demand a test, and to refuse to have sex with those who will not test.
I’ll admit for me it is a bit sad there are STD’s interfering with the free and open expression of sexuality these days. For me, I am not into casual affairs of the heart, yet I have been free with myself to experience relationships with sex involved full measure even if relationships did not last for one reason or another. I am not a prude, yet the days of open experimentation and unbridled passions being left open to guide me are long past. I am resilient and always hopeful of finding a loving and soulful connection, thus I am always open to sexual exploration with one partner, and for me an HIV test is a necessity in this day and age. All sexually transmitted diseases can either be treated or managed, but HIV is a slow death, and unfortunately will drastically limit who you can be sexually active with. I think it is just plain common sense to require a test, and require during the time of sharing intimacies your partner agree to sexual monogamy if sex is unprotected, whether the commitment to monogamy lasts a day, a week, a month or longer. The bottom line is no one should be having sex with anyone unprotected and who will not protect their own life and give you the reassurance they care about your life. If you are not testing, the risks you are taking are not worth the risk of not knowing, or worse finding out you have HIV and should have taken a small amount of time to discuss this matter and test.
Without a test, you are playing Russian roulette with your health, and with the health of others.
This is not at all about making judgments on others for their sexual preferences, it is about helping to educate and encourage individuals to protect their lives, especially when STD’s are still on the rise in some communities, as well as some individuals whom knowingly have HIV go on to have unprotected sex without telling their partners of their HIV status and end up infecting their partners. For in my community just recently a man was arrested for having infected several of his sexual partners. To test for HIV before sex, should be a simple requirement we should all be brave enough to ask for and talk about.
Please speak up and be an advocate for testing!
Be conscious, and help others to wake up on doing their part to help stop AIDS.
We can certainly do this, if we are as liberated as we all think we are!
For, some sex is a sacred procreative act that brings forth life, and for some it is an act of pleasure that has the potential to bring them death especially if they are careless with their health.
I figured, given I write about love in my life, in spite of me having a spiritual element to my desires, I thought it might be wise to just talk about sex and the need for safe sex, for what it’s worth. If one person reads this and they start protecting themselves, then it will have been worth sharing a few of my experiences, and thoughts on this issue to hopefully make valid points in hopes to remove the stigma over discussing testing for HIV and STD’s prior to sex.
May we all have the fulfillment of a sexually rewarding life.
Peace & Love
November 28, 2017
Note: Decided to write a PSA of sorts given AIDS International Day was on the first of December…not too long ago, but this is something everyone should take seriously every day of the year!
Some possible good news in the future on this: https://futurism.com/vaccine-hiv-te…