In the early 80s a new disease came out and only gays got it (tell that to Ryan White), and since I was in utter denial about my same-sex attraction, that could never happen to me. AIDS, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. That was the name of the actual disease, while the virus is called HIV. Like everyone around me, I made lots of off-color, tasteless jokes about it. I secretly knew I was at higher risk, but that it could never happen to me, as long as I wasn’t gay.
My mother, being a nurse, supplied me and my brother with all the information available about it. Any and all rumors about it were quashed, and I learned that most people were highly uninformed about the matter. There was a lot of fear about it, especially when known stars revealed they had it: Rock Hudson, Robert Reed (he was only HIV positive), and Freddie Mercury spring readily to mind. I had no idea who Liberace was at the time but he died of it too. Most people assumed that only gays got it, and the religious (not Christian) believed they deserved it, because of divine wrath from a vengeful God.
As I wrote about in previous posts I lived a hardcore gay lifestyle. I put myself at incredible risk, having unprotected sex (every time). I was brash. I was invincible. I was stupid. This was a part of why I got out of the lifestyle. But Jason kept coming back and I was sucked in every time. The last time we were together he wasn’t looking good. This would have been in 2004. I know, because my youngest son was a year old at the time and he turns 13 in November.
I should have gotten myself tested then, but to be honest, I was a coward. I lived with the knowledge of what I had done and put my wife at risk. But I couldn’t live with the stigma of possibly having HIV or worse AIDS. The off-color jokes were no longer funny (they never were) and there was the very real possibility that I might have the disease, never mind all the other sexually transmitted diseases I put myself and my wife at risk for. I largely ignored it, but always had it gnawing at me.
When my stroke happened, the Lord had wiped out all of memory, including that I had lived a gay lifestyle. As I look back at the time, it was very liberating. I was suddenly free from the knowledge that I was same-sex attracted, that I had delved into a very dangerous lifestyle, my exboyfriend, and HIV.
As I slowly started recovering memories (it was more like getting back whole sections of your past experience, but there would be other holes and you were left wondering how you got there) I started realizing I was same-sex attracted and that I had lived this whole other life. Then I remembered about HIV and that I had been with Jason (this was in January of 2016). I remembered how bad he was looking. I was suddenly terrified.
I wasn’t symptomatic, but I also knew that the virus could be in the body for twenty years before you showed symptoms. I wish I could say I rushed right out and got tested, but that would be a lie. Getting tested and finding out that I was positive would mean I would have to tell my wife. It would mean I would become another statistic in another government computer. It meant that I would be another gay who got what he deserved from a vengeful God, full of wrath.
I was full of the spirit of fear. It would be in the month of May that I would make up my mind to get tested. I was almost petrified with fear from finding out. I had members of my church pray for me (quite a number know where I come from) including the pastor. I had a team from K-LOVE Christian radio praying for me. These prayers were not so much that I would be HIV free, but that I would man up and overcome the spirit of fear about it.
I took off from work that day and went and had myself tested. I was in a waiting room surrounded by condom ads and informational posters about STDs. There were three other people in front of me and I had to wait about an hour before it was my turn. Then my time came. They drew blood from me and I had to wait for the results.
That was the longest wait of my life. My stomach was in knots and my legs were jumping nervously. This result could change the course of my life (as if the stroke hadn’t changed it enough). About fifteen minutes before I got the actual results, God’s Holy Spirit came over me. He calmed me, telling me that everything would be okay and the results. Shortly after, my name was called and the doctor told me what God had already let me know – that I was HIV NEGATIVE. Not only that, there was no sign of any other disease.
A tremendous and terrible burden was suddenly gone and I felt that I could fly. When I left the clinic I praised God and gave glory to His name.
But others are not so blessed. I don’t know what happened to Jason. He was very manipulative and very bad for me, but it does not mean I wish him ill will. There is a part of me that will always love him, but I know he didn’t love me and only used me for sex. I pray he doesn’t have HIV and that he will abandon the gay lifestyle as I did and turn to God.