The Moment that Changed My Life
I contracted HIV my first time having sex at the age of 15, few days before my 16 birthday, the second day of my sophomore year of high school in 2001.
My best friend and I picked up our last summer youth check and went shopping for school supplies and clothes to get ready for our sophomore year of high school. After a long day of shopping, we decided to head down to The Village, just to hang out and to end our summer vacation.
As we were walking down Christopher Street, heading to the pier, I noticed this guy looking at me but I paid him no mind. My best friend and I were hanging out on the pier, talking about our summer vacation and how we can’t wait to see our friends in high school. It got late for us so we decided to head home.
Losing my virginity
Walking back up Christopher Street, the same guy I noticed checking me out stopped me and asked for my number. I didn’t give him my number, but I took his because my mother didn’t allow me to use her phone and hated boys calling her phone asking for me. I knew right then and there that I was going to lose my virginity to him. We talked over the phone during the last days of my summer vacation.
For some reason, school started on a Thursday this year. I went to school that Thursday to get my program and metro cards. I need my metro card to get to this guy's house. Friday came and, as I left for school, I lied to mom and said that I was heading for school when I really went uptown in The Bronx/Gunhill area to lose my virginity.
Sex education geared towards heterosexuals
When it came to having sex with another man, I was clueless. In high school, all my sex ed teacher taught me was how to protect myself if I was going to have sex with a girl and also on the reproductive system and how is it for a woman during her stages of pregnancy. Yes, I knew about STIs/STDs, unwanted pregnancy, condoms, even HIV and AIDS, but I thought these things happen only when you're having sex with a woman, not with a man.
High school sex ed class was really geared towards the heterosexual community; the curriculum wasn't comprehensive to the LGBTQ+ community. I couldn’t talk about my feelings for another man at home and my school didn’t teach me how to have sex with another man. So when it came to me losing my virginity, condoms weren’t a thought.
Worried about an HIV diagnosis
Losing my virginity went form consensual sex to rape. When I told him to stop and that I didn’t want to continue, he didn't listen to me. I had to wait for him to finish to leave. We stopped talking after that day. After I lost my virginity, I became very sick. I thought I had the flu or something, and I told myself that if this was the aftermath after having sex, I wouldn’t have it again until I'm ready. Needless to say, I finally knew what it was to have sex and now I have a story to tell my friend.
Monday came around and I couldn’t wait to tell my so-called friends about my sexual encounter. Before I can tell my friends about my Friday, one of my friends at the lunch table was very concerned about a mutual of ours about being HIV positive because he had unprotected sex with a guy who is HIV positive. When I heard the name of the guy who had HIV, my heart dropped to the floor. I also had unprotected sex with the same guy! I was like "No way. What did I get myself into?"
Needing community and support
I knew I had no real friends because HIV and AIDS, still to this day, is a stigmatizing disease. I mean they were very concerned for him, but were very happy that they weren’t in his shoes and saying things like “How could he be so stupid and not use a condom?" I knew that if I told them that I did the same thing, they would think the same way about me.
In this same month, my mother kicked me out of her house for being gay and not helping her pay bills. I dropped out of high school, started working at McDonalds, and lived with my aunt. This was a very depressing time in my life but I instantly went into survival mode. Picture this: I was homeless, HIV positive, and a high school drop-out all at the age of 16.
Read Jahlove's the first article of this three-part series: Coming into My Own.
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?