And Everyone Turned on Me Because I’m HIV Positive
I know that it is a shocking thing to say; but I am past embarrassment after what I have been through. I am a 66 and a registered nurse. I am married and have been with my husband for 40 years. We have five children, all of whom who are successful with their own families. I am a devout Christian. I also happen to be HIV positive. I got the virus from a one-off lover. It was the best sex I have ever hard and I have paid a dear price for it. When you add to it the fact that I am white and do not look sexy by any stretch of imagination, you get the perfect combination that explains why virtually everybody I have disclosed my status to has recoiled in disgust.
I should not be another AIDS statistic. I simply do not meet the profile. My daughter was shocked at the notion that I even had sex at my age. She was scandalized that I was doing it with her father, let alone with the young man who came to sell fax machines to my house. I never bought any but boy did I get something really huge from him. I have this disease which is not going to kill me if I take my medication. However, the stigma is slowly killing me. I can no longer attend Church and spend most of my times with HIV+ positive people. One of them was a prostitute who told me that I had made a terrible mistake throwing everything away for a night of passion. I corrected her sardonically by telling her that it was actually a day of passion.
How it all Started
My husband Phil has been in hospital for one year with back pain problems. I do not really know what happened but the doctors tell us that it was a pinched nerve that went wrong because of abuse. One nurse even had the temerity to suggest to me that I was “over-exerting him” in the bedroom hence the bad back. If only they knew: for 40 good years, I had become used to Phil’s irregular bouts of romance. He typically could manage about once every month. We never had to use protection because he was so irregular but somehow we managed to have five healthy kids.
Meanwhile I was frustrated but could not quite put my finger on the source of my frustrations. Like many bored housewives, I put my all into looking after my family. I had been nursing until I was 45 then Phil suggested that I give up the job and come home. Apparently he thought it would be good to spend time together as a family. I told him that it was ridiculous that our teenage children needed me around and he largely went about his business while at home. Now he wanted me to come back home and stare at the walls.
That is the thing about Phil: he was always too busy for his marriage. I do not mean busy is in working at the office. He was a senior accountant for a health provider and was given a pretty flexible schedule. What he liked to do was come home, garden and look after his beloved car. I am ashamed to say that I once became jealous of that car. It seemed to get my husband’s undivided attention. I was left with crumbs when he had done all his work. Phil also found time to volunteer to look after other people’s gardens. Meanwhile my emotional garden was starved of love and attention.
My sister used to joke that Phil was a community husband. He certainly preferred to engage with others than me his wife. I once asked him whether he loved me and he earnestly replied that he did. His only complaint was that I was asking too much from him. He did not want to become my baby sitter. Anyway, I knew nothing better and just thought it would be lovely for the kids if we did actually just stay together rather than divorcing. Many of the people that had been in our generation were on multiple divorcees. They had lived their lives with all the trials and highs but I was stuck in my home doing nothing. Phil is quite insistent and persuasive when he wants to be…that is how I ended up marrying him in the first place.
A Young Man Comes into My Life
I remember every single detail about Tag (as he called himself). He must have been about 23 but his card actually showed 27. I would like to say that he was a hunk but I would be lying. He was just a normal 23-year old…slightly disorganized, slightly messy with a hint of sweat due to his work. His skin was pale and sallow for a person that allegedly got many chances to work in the outdoors. I remember the hair, it was somewhere between brown and pink. He had a rather saucer-like mouth but with fleshy lips that curled into a sensual button fold.
Tag was selling fax machines and I laughed when he first told me. It was almost like selling a product that was last used in the 1930s. I said that I had no need for a fax machine and even if I had; there was no money to spend on it. Tag said that he was very thirsty and wondered whether I could give him a glass of water. I hesitated but his eyes melted me with a kind of pleading look that my dog does so well when he wants a treat. Why, why didn’t I send him on his way? Why didn’t I stop him when he reached out to touch my hand as I placed the cup on the table? Why didn’t I scream when he suddenly leapt onto me like a wild cat? Why didn’t I stop him when he tore of my clothes? Why didn’t I stop him he made love to me again and again throughout the afternoon and during the night?
HIV Positive: The Troubles Begin
They are all the useless regrets that my counselor tells me “will not change a thing”. The next day Tag was gone. Not even a calling card but I was feelingly incredibly feverish. I was sweating and had broken out in a rash. I thought this flue was my punishment for cheating on my ill husband with this young man, who was not even that attractive. I got worse. I was feeling the pains in my bones and could not stand for the feverishness. When I put on a blanket, it was too hot. Eventually I decided that I had to get checked out. The next day I went to my doctor.
He said I looked terrible and it seemed I had some kind of serious flue. I mentioned that I might have gotten it from someone that came to visit the house. The doctor’s face suddenly changed. He said that he wanted to do some tests but wanted me to get me some counselling first. I met Jane who was the most matter-of-fact person. She told me that they suspected I might have an acute HIV infection but wanted to do a blood test to confirm. This was a real shock to me. I had heard about HIV but I thought it was only a disease for druggies, closeted homosexuals and generally loose people. I was none of those, save for my dirty day with Tag.
Jane told me that I should prepare for the worst. She told me about possible treatment regimens and that I would not die from AIDS. It was as if she was telling a story to me about someone else. I went into this kind of displacement and disassociation with reality. I could not believe it…I did not want to believe it. I thought this was the worst day of my life but more or nearly as worse was to come in due course. I had to disclose my status to my family but I did not tell Phil because he was sick. There is unlikely to be any other occasion that I would sleep with him so I think it is best to let that particular sleeping dog lie.
That Shameless Woman
I am now the HIV positive scarlet woman that provides fodder for every topic of conversation. I can see people pointing me out when they see me. I have a suspicion that my daughter shared my “secret” with her friends and they decided to share it with everybody they could find. The low point was when I realized that I was being called the “AIDS grandma” by the local louts .
When I went to the store, I could see people gravitating to the other isle and they would definitely stare. The shop assistant looked panicked when she was serving me until her supervisor told her “it would not catch”. She thought that she was helping but it was like a dagger through my very heart. I suppose they will eventually tire of their harassment and move on to another victim. Thanks Tag…NOT.