I Feared My HIV Taking My Pretty Privilege.
Being HIV positive, we face plenty of fears; one of mines was losing my pretty privilege. Our society applauds those who are attractive and awards them in every aspect of their lives. Starting from birth, females are expected to be groomed, and they were rewarded with praise, and I was one of them.
Now that I knew I had HIV, I feared that I was permanently scarred of success, but that theory didn't sit with me well because, for my entire life, I have been HIV positive, and that never affected my success.
Learning my status at age 9
At age nine, my doctors and mother revealed my HIV status to me, and when they did, I saw the concern on their faces. Their body language indicated that my HIV status would make my life difficult. The following day after receiving my diagnosis, my mother told me not to tell anyone about what I was told yesterday; I asked her why, and she said because people can be mean. My mother always went around the bush when talking about our HIV status; through her body language, I could tell that HIV made her feel uncomfortable and under attack; therefore, I shared her fears. Luckily, my worries made me curious and encouraged me to explore them. I was under the impression if my friends would find out, they would stop being my friends, so I decided to tell my middle school friends. When I told them they didn't make it a big deal. I got the impression that it wasn't important for them to know, but they were glad I felt comfortable sharing that with them.
After that discovery, I became more curious about why people told me I would face disapproval of my HIV status, but I didn’t. I felt I needed more people’s opinions on my HIV status to have a better idea of what the disapproval rate was, but I wasn’t ready to explore that yet. All the fear from the HIV community consumed me; I didn’t want to ruin my life.
Becoming involved in the HIV community
I became involved in the HIV community once my mother placed me in a teen HIV support group at age 12. Her intentions were for me to meet other HIV positive children to receive the support I needed. It turns out that the people within the group shared the same paranoia as my mother, which wasn’t supportive, in my opinion.
There was a huge emphasis on being selective of who we told. It put me under the impression that if the world found out about my HIV status, it would ruin my life forever, and there would be no coming back after that information was out in the open.
HIV, dating, and fear of rejection
I mostly recall discussions around the fear of being HIV positive and rejection when dating. Commonly the advice that is given is to wait until the person I'm dating and I get to know each other and build trust; ideally, I should reveal my status around six months of getting to know the person.
The getting to know the person phase was so long because the theory is if I told someone I had HIV too soon, the person would be less likely to accept my status. It was critical that allowing the person to get to know me first will help them see me as a person and would cause the person not to prejudge me based on my HIV status.
The person I reveal my status to should be a person I felt would be a great long term partner; which I internally disagreed with. I knew I was a beautiful young female desired by many males, and I had the same desires for them. I wanted to have experiences with different males before I decided I wanted to be with just one. I never could come across a person who would advise that; therefore, I went exploring once again alone.
Entering high school
For many years I enjoyed the non-sexual attention I got from males. When I approached high school, that is when sex became a topic within my age range, and now I had to figure out how to get into a relationship while being HIV positive. Also, during this time, I wasn't taking my medicine, and it became pressing for me to commit to my treatment so that I won’t transmit HIV to my partner. During this time, undetectable equals untransmittable wasn't a part of the HIV campaign. Still, it was indicated that if I took my medicine, I wouldn't pass HIV to others.
In high school, I was the most fearful of disclosing my status because I feared my pretty privilege would be taken away. I believe being open about my HIV status would cause me significant emotional and physical harm. It is often taught in the HIV community that our HIV status will be used against us. I was told that it could cause people to bully me, ruin my character, and even criminalize me. Therefore I decided to commit to my treatment, and I didn’t tell anyone about my status in school. I only participated in non-penetration sex, which at the time, I didn’t consider as sex at that age. I made this decision because I couldn’t risk people in my school finding out.
Disclosing my status to my boyfriend
The first guy I told I had HIV was my boyfriend at the time, and we were together for four months when I disclosed my status to him. I was with him because he begged me to date him, and I said yes so that he could leave me alone; honestly, I thought he would have broken up with me within the first month. Even though I didn’t experience any type of penetration sex during this time, I knew sex was a very important part of a happy relationship, so since he was my longest relationship, I told him I had HIV.
When I first started telling guys I had HIV, I couldn’t even get the words out, and I had to write it on a piece of paper. He responded that he felt that he liked me more and that I should know that no other guy would accept that I had HIV. That response is so toxic, but I didn’t view it like that because I partly believed in it.
After I told him that I believe that was the first time I was penetrated, he used a finger. Also, he broke up with me soon after; I honestly can’t remember why he did. I do remember that we were always going back and forth if we should date again. After our break-up, we both would have sexual interactions with each other and other people separately. After a year and three months of doing that, I decided to finally have sex for the first time at age seventeen with my ex.
Part of me felt that our relationship had problems because we weren’t having sex. The main reason why I had sex with him was that I was ready to explore my sex life, and I wanted to have sex with someone I knew I wouldn’t catch feelings; at this point, I knew I didn’t want to be with my ex.
Also, I knew I wouldn’t be looked at as a slut because everyone who knew me was under the impression that I was with him for a year. In high school, I was very fearful of being called a slut and now look at me writing a blog about sex; that’s growth.
Time to start exploring
Now that I’m no longer a virgin, it was time to start exploring. I still was very fearful of the harm that my mother and I could face when disclosing my status. So the few guys I did have sex with that did go to my high school, I didn’t tell them my status. Afterward, I felt wrong for not doing so; there is extreme pressure for the person with STDs to reveal their status on their own, which I believe shouldn’t be the case. If two people are deciding to have sex with each other, both should have an open-non judgmental conversation on the topic; sadly, that isn’t how culture taught us to think of it. Our culture is sex-negative and often view sexually transmitted diseases as a threat and a punishment for participating in non-monogamous sex.
As a person living with HIV, it is tough to disclose my status because I feared it being used against me, so my reasoning for not telling was to protect myself while I enjoyed casual sex. Casual sex is so difficult to navigate because it isn’t encouraged in our culture; it’s often is treated as a secret transaction. Even though this was the case, I wanted to be transparent with my casual sex partners, so I accepted the risk of the harm I can face due to disclosing my status to a potential sexual partner that I didn’t know well.
So I started exploring the time frame of telling someone my status, I began waiting six months, and that didn’t go well because I didn’t want to wait that long, and also people tend to feel like I was hiding it from them, which they internalize my actions as a betrayal. The sooner I disclose, the better for me because sexual interaction is a priority for me, so I need to know whether the person is comfortable or not with my status from the start.Being straightforward about my statusSurprisingly being straightforward with guys about my status causes them not to feel threatened by my status. It seems the longer I waited increased the negative response; because it comes across as being malicious for not revealing my status. It saddens me that this is how our culture taught us to view individuals living with sexually transmitted illnesses. People living with STDs should disclose their status when they are comfortable, as long as it is done before engaging in sexual activity; everyone should understand that.The more I disclosed my status, the more I realize that my disapproval rate was extremely low. My fear of losing my pretty privilege due to my HIV status was non-existent. The more I became open about my status, the more I got praised for doing so, which attracted more guys. Owning my status made me more attractive. My aspiration to educate and uplift others gave others the desire to want to be around me because we all don’t want to be taken advantage of and be judged sexually. Interested in sharing your own diagnosis story, treatment experience, or another aspect of living with HIV?Share my experience
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?