A Seroconcordant Couple
We are always introduced as The Marshall's.
Kalvin and Eunice, married for 35 years. A seroconcordant couple, meaning we both are living with HIV. I’m always asked to tell my story. My answer? How could I separate us with a story about me when we both were affected by HIV and, if I am being honest, Eunice had the first signs and symptoms even though we had no idea they were signs of HIV. My symptoms came much later.
Living with purpose
We are choosing to focus on life after the HIV diagnosis. That is where our story really begins. After the HIV diagnosis, we went from an HIV positive couple doomed to fail, to a couple living with HIV, focused and with a purpose.
Freeing ourselves from the discrimination, judgment, and stigma that covered us the first years of the journey, we realized this was just another pebble added to our plate. We faced and conquered the fears of discrimination head-on. The judgment and stigma came from people that said as a couple we would not survive because I was an undercover BI or Gay man and Eunice should have walked away to preserve her dignity and because she did not she had to be so desperate to not be alone she would put up with living a lie having a gay HIV+ man as a husband. This was the thought of many in the HIV community and society also believed this since public perception was this was a gay disease.
Finding support as a seroconcordant couple
The support groups we attended we were told we did not fit in and we were not wanted and to leave because as a couple we had each other, and we should be with our own kind. When I talked to the person from the Health Department I had already been given my diagnosis while in the hospital she says I was avoiding her while she tried to contact me even though she came to the hospital where I had been for a month very close to death not knowing I had been exposed to this virus. She tried to get me to say I was bi or gay to close the file and list this as an MSM diagnosis and passing it on to Eunice my wife. The CDC did not recognize us as a couple but listed us as “Other” because from all I could research I did not find any cases of a straight heterosexual man being documented as being diagnosed with HIV. All I found was heterosexual was listed as women and children in the CDC database.
HIV support groups and advocacy
What did we do? We fought back. We got HIV educated. We both went to Project LEAP in 2009 and in 2010 we became part of the HIV+ Campaign in Illinois wearing our RED HIV+ T-shirts in public, answering questions, and getting strange and nasty looks from people.
We are part of the NO Shame About Being HIV+ Campaign where we shared our story and proudly wore the NO Shame T-Shirts in public. We volunteered as a couple in the HIV Community at BSN (Bering Support Network) in Houston and at the GLBT Center in Houston making ourselves visible to the public. We became peer group facilitators for several HIV support groups. We started a support group for straight couples living with HIV. We were part of a panel that talked to students at Alief Hastings High School in Houston. They were doing a production of Rent and wanted to talk with people living with HIV. We also talked to students at Sam Houston State University in Huntsville Texas for their RED Day Celebration.
Eunice helped to start WWAP (Women With A Purpose), an HIV support group for women in Houston. She joined PWN and helped to start a CAB and another support group, Serenity Sisters for women living with HIV. We are part of the Bow Tie Movement, showing support to straight men living with HIV. Eunice supported me as I sat on a panel of heterosexual men living with HIV that led a workshop at the Positive Living Conference in Fort Walton Beach Florida, giving a voice to straight men living with HIV. We partnered with Ruth and Venita Ray to create the Houston Heterosexual HIV Awareness Task Force where we had an awareness table set up at Legacy Health in Houston giving out condoms and sharing information being visible. We are inaugural members of POP+ the Positive Organizing Project helping to develop new HIV Advocates and we were presenters for the 2018 POP+ class presenting HIV 101. We were featured in POZ magazine in 2018 and the POZ 100 list for people living with HIV 50 and over.
That is our Story.
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