Sunday, 1 December 2013

World AIDS Day 2013: Eleven years with HIV

Knowledge and discovery
We sat down to talk about living with HIV for over a decade and what it means for life and the pursuit of happiness.
He had known many people affected by HIV, but rarely met anyone who had succumbed to AIDS except for stories of people and the haunting pictures that accompanied the dying days of the famous in the early days of AIDS.
His arrival in the UK allowed him to explore a nature he knew he had from well before the age of 10, when he had his full sexual encounter with someone 6 years older.
Freedom for expression
In secondary school and later he found someone who shared a same sex inclination, and they found places and time to fulfil their passions, a situation that can be inhibited by the homophobia now being codified in the legal framework in Nigeria.
Apart from the occasional threats of blackmail, there were few with whom there was a sense of fulfilled sexual companionship, it was almost transactional.
The UK signalled freedom, the freedom to explore his sexuality without fear, and that was soon realised in a number of trysts; some lasted weeks, others lasted months until he found a soul mate that ushered in a relationship that lasted seven years.
Testing for inconvenience
He took a few sexual risks and went for check-ups that sometimes presented embarrassing results not helped by the kind of engagements and unsettling discussions with sexual health workers; this discouraged the prompt take-up of free services.
He took the HIV test up to three times a year, but he extracted an undertaking that they do not inform him of the results. He guessed the outcomes presented no need for the clinic to contact him urgently for a follow-up.
In September 2002, he went in for a sexual health check-up and by that time, he had decided he was ready for whatever the results were. By then, he was almost certain that the result will be positive and was already working on how to live life with such a prospect.
Knowledge and adjustment
The first result indicated a positive, but they took another test to be sure and that returned a positive, he had become a person living with HIV, and he adjusted his life to accommodate that reality by seeking out those with a similar health situation.
Many years passed with almost a sense of invincibility bordering of fatalism, much as he had a useful relationship, they both sought out multiple partners and yet for all they liked to do, they were almost teetotal, never did drugs but liked their sex along with the companionship, the travel and many other exciting things partners did for fun.
His HIV positive partner had long been on anti-retroviral (ARV) medication, but he paid no attention to what some others began to observe as failing health, probably the virus ravaging his body, rampaging through his veins and organs, untrammelled and unmanaged until 2009 when a rapid deterioration in health presented a life-threatening condition.
You have AIDS
Towards the end of that year, he was close to becoming an unusual AIDS statistic in Western Europe where medicine had already arrested the view of HIV being a terminal and precipitous condition that rapidly brought the scythe of the Grim Reaper to harvest another soul.
The intervention was late but just in time for medicine and medication to delay the possibility of impending death due to a seriously weakened immune system.
He had dabbled with a reckless carelessness to life, but mercifully, he won a new lease of life moving him out of the terrain of a person suffering AIDS back to just being a person living with HIV.
Life living with HIV
Within 8 weeks of taking on first-line treatment, the HIV virus had become undetectable in his bloodstream though it has taken much longer for his immune system to recover and move him out of the danger zone of opportunistic infections.
Now, four years down the line, he is much wiser and informed about HIV/AIDS issues, he has considered getting involved in activism and advocacy for the many with his kind of background who find it difficult to talk about sexuality and status considering the stigma that follows revealing such a condition to family and friends.
Know and act
I thought he had an interesting story to share about the need to know your status and the greater need to engage promptly the sexual health services that will provide better medical outcomes with timely intervention before HIV results in AIDS.
He has decided to start with sharing part of that long story of living with HIV and AIDS over the last 11 years on World AIDS Day, 2013.
Thank you.


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