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Grateful? I don't think so, by Susan
“You must be so grateful that your partner agreed to stay with you despite the fact that you have, you know, AIDS,” said a particularly vacuous journalist to me, during an interview for a women’s magazine. “Actually, no,” I replied, “He’s grateful that I stay with him, because I’m so great in bed.” Strangely, she chose to ignore my comment and continued to portray me as a vapid pathetic creature, ashamed of my status and gushing with gratitude that someone would deign to go out with diseased old me. No mention of the fact that I have a remarkable capacity to suppress my gag reflex.
It saddens me when I read about people living with HIV who feel that they have to hang up their shagging shoes and turn to a life of labourious abstinence. Should an HIV-positive diagnosis correlate with an abandoned libido? Well, I must confess that I did have a temporary loss of libido when I was first diagnosed. Being told that I only had four years to live didn’t make me feel particularly horny. Perhaps feeling that sex was the cause of my being HIV-positive, coupled with my Catholic conscience issues, put me off the dirty deed for a while.
At the time, I was in a relationship with a particularly vile American. He suggested that no one would want to be with me now, as I was HIV-positive. My self-esteem was so suppressed that I actually believed him. After we split up, I felt that my life would comprise of eating microwave meals for one and masturbation (surprisingly pleasurable if undertaken simultaneously). It took a year of making my eyesight considerably worse (only kidding), before I abandoned that notion.
I met my current partner at a conference and was immediately blinded with lust. I initially believed that our relationship would simply be a short-term sex thing, so didn’t feel that it was necessary to disclose my status – we always had protected sex. A month later, I found myself in the heinous position of falling in love. I vacillated with the idea of dumping him, rather than face being rejected when I told him about my positive status. Finally I chose to tell him, classily, in a McDonald's car park (the rationale being that, if he rejected me, I’d have the compensation of a Big Mac Meal).
I began in a somewhat cowardly way, by saying “I have something to tell you about me, that’s quite bad”, and proceeded to let him guess. His first guess, rather alarmingly, was that I used to be a man – but he finally got there. Instead of rushing off to scrub himself in bleach, he professed his love, and five years later we’re still together.
I do hope we’ll stay together long-term, but if we don’t, I don’t think I’ll be booking myself into the nearest nunnery quite yet. My self-esteem has rebounded to its previous monstrous proportions – to the extent that I believe most men would be lucky to have me, regardless of my HIV-positive status. Pass me a banana and I’ll show you one of the reasons why…