BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY

BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY

safe sex ThailandHe lives in Abuja…I stay in Lagos. We met on a generic gay dating site.  He had an elusive profile and I had a picture of my bum on mine. The first thing I noticed was his age: 38. Older men have always appealed to me; (my first boyfriend was 45) and so we exchanged numbers and began chatting.

Our conversations were sexual, I would send him a picture of my bum in the middle of the day often unawares while he was at work, and he would send me one of his dick later that evening (which didn’t look too impressive to me). I should mention he was cute, in a cartoony way; He reminded me of Chicken Little. He was also married.

He had an ass fetish, and liked his men a bit on the chubby side, and so my pictures sent him on edge. He would literally call me at odd hours and go on and on about them. He had a nice Hausa accent, so I didn’t mind.

One day he told me he was in Lagos and wanted me to spend the night with him. It was a rainy night and was quite late. He was leaving for Abuja the following day, we had been chatting for a while now and had talked ourselves up to a frenzied anticipation. And so I went, in a taxi he would be paying for, apprehensive but expectant. The road was free, the night crisp and clear, the air cool and humid.

I arrived at the hotel where he was spending the night, he looked a lot like his pictures, except I noticed he was much slimmer and looked tired , probably stress from work, I thought.

The moment we got into the hotel room, it was on. He was very acrobatic, and slightly sadistic. And of course there was a huge mirror directly beside the bed, which made things even more interesting.  Round after round we went till I was completely exhausted and so sore I had to beg him to stop. He went clubbing later in the night and I was left alone in the cool hotel room.

And then it hit me. What had I done? I had had sex with a man without protection!  Bareback, as they say. I shrugged the feeling off and went to sleep. The next morning we had it again. This time it was even more intense and savage and yet again without protection.

I arrived home later that morning. The distant thought having bareback sex with someone I barely knew, on my mind.

The following morning, I woke up feeling tremendously tired. I had had a good eight hour sleep, yet I felt fatigued. Odd! But I thought nothing of it, and proceeded with the activities of the day, yawning stretching and taking naps in between.

The following day I still felt tired and sleepy. What was going on? Could it be? HIV? I shrugged off the thought as being silly, but every now and then that voice would pop up and announce that after all, I had unprotected receptive anal intercourse which carries the highest sexual risk of contracting HIV. So I did what the average youth of today does:  I googled.

Being the avid reader that I am, I went through scores and scores of materials on HIV, my body still fatigued and lethargic. What I read scared me.

I read that HIV has three distinct phases: An acute (which means short) infection phase. A latent stage and then the third and final stage: Full blown AIDS.

I read that the acute stage starts about 2-4weeks after infection and typically consists of flu like symptoms.  The most common of which is a fever, sore throat and a distinct rash. At first this put me at ease, I wasn’t having any of those and it was too early to have any symptoms really. My fatigue was probably due to the intense and acrobatic intercourse of the day before. So I forgot all about it and went ahead with life and soon a day after, my fatigue wore off.

Then all hell broke loose

Exactly two weeks after, what started as a small sneeze became a horrible cold. I had a painful cough, profuse runny nose and a sore throat. I panicked. Who gets a cold in the middle of a blinding heat wave?

Off to the internet I went, I read viciously again. I learned that the clinically term for symptoms associated with acute HIV is Seroconversion. Seroconversion is a process where your body produces a large amount of anti bodies to defend its self against the massive influx of HIV in your bloodstream, your body reacts adversely to the large amount of anti bodies produced and hence the symptoms.

Was I seroconverting? I prowled through the internet, my face flushed in panic, my mood irritable.  The voices in my head were filled with I-Told-You-Sos.

But then I learnt that seroconversion didn’t consist of any respiratory symptoms at all and were more specifically ‘Mononucleosis’ in nature. What is mono? Mononucleosis is a viral infection whose symptoms are to a large extent verbatim to acute HIV symptoms.

Ok so maybe I wasn’t seroconverting and maybe I was just overreacting. And as my symptoms wore off, I forgot about everything.  I was healthy.  I was fine.

And then…

A week after, I started having these piercing joint pain that came just when I was lying in bed. I had it extensively.  In all parts of my joints.  The pain was sporadic, short and piercing but when it came it left me puzzled and worried. Where was it coming from?  What was happening?

And then began what I would term the Days of Depression.

At first I thought the pains would go but they didn’t, every night just before I went to sleep they would come, sporadic as always.  Some nights I couldn’t even sleep. I Googled, and I found that the medical term for what I was experiencing is called Arthralgia. To my horror I also read that unexplained and often chronic Arthralgia is a symptom of 5% of people living with HIV. This one fact affected me profoundly.

As the days went by, the joint pains persisted and were unrelenting.  My mind was a labyrinth of thoughts. I had read that seroconversion symptoms typically only lasted for a week; it had been well over a week so maybe whatever I was experiencing wasn’t HIV related?

The voices in my head were cruel and mocking. I would literally stay awake going over and over and over again everything I had read on HIV. It seemed the more I read, the more terrified I became.

Soon my thoughts began to get the best part of me. If I had a slight headache or a cough, I attributed it to HIV. If I heard someone had a fever, my first thought became HIV. I became a hypochondriac. I couldn’t go for a blood test till after 3 months, when the window period was over and a more accurate result was guaranteed. So all I did was wait. The voices in my head were out to ensure I was dead before those 3 months were over.

One day, plagued with anxiety and on the verge of depression, I woke to feel intense pain in my mouth.  The side of my jaw was swollen and to my horror, just beneath the side of my jaw was a swollen and tender lymph node (google those). I had read that continous and persistent swollen lymph nodes were almost synonymous with HIV infection. That was the height!

I called my best friend crying…in sheer panic, I was inconsolable.  I also messaged Him (by him I mean the Abuja guy). He assured me he was fine and I was being dramatic and as soon as the three months was over I should get tested and I’ll be fine.

A trip to the dentist’s revealed I had Pericoronitis, which is an infection of the surrounding gums and jaw caused by an impacted wisdom tooth; I was given some antibiotics.

Relief came albeit short-lived. When the pain and swellings subsided, even my joints didn’t ache anymore. But the demons in my head were having a field day. They put into my mind that my symptoms were not mere coincidences but they were in fact HIV related and I believed them; and so I went into full scale clinical depression.  I think I was truly depressed for the first time in my life.

I stopped eating, and would stay in my room all day, sometimes I cried, I thought about dying a lot.  I gave my life to Christ over and over again. The joint pains stopped, yet I remained unconvinced that they were not HIV related. I prayed, I made several promises to God (one included deleting a vast folder on my laptop containing gigabytes worth of gay porn). I kept a close eye on my calendar, monitoring the days till it was exactly 3 months and maybe a few days.

I joined a HIV forum, and read stories, some of them down right depressing about living with HIV, I realised how foolish it was for me to have bareback sex in the first place.  I also realized how dangerous it really is especially for bottoms.

Finally the 3 month wait was over and I so I went to a clinic, had my blood taken and was told to come back later that evening to check the results.  I was going to be tested for two types of HIV (yes, they are two strains of the virus) HIV-1 which is the common kind, very deadly and virulent, and HIV-2 which is less virulent and more common in West Africa.  I spent that day like it was my last,  I was much nicer to everyone, I prayed a lot and sang praises, I arranged my room, ran  errands, cooked dinner for the family and waited in dread for the result.

And finally the results came out.

I was Negative!

It felt like I had won the lottery. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. But mostly I was mad at myself for believing the voices in my head and willing myself to depression. I also felt like I had been given a second chance. I promised myself never to do bareback again. Regardless of who I was shagging. One is better safe than sorry as they say.

So please as we shag and go from lover of lover and bed to bed, let us use a rubber and be safe!

ENDNOTE: The issue of the chronic joint pain I was experiencing (Arthralgia) is something that I am still on the edge about. However I have a family history of Arthritis, so maybe this might explain why I had them all of a sudden. Although chronic Arthralgia is a fairly common ailment of people living with HIV, it typically afflicts individuals within the 30-50 age group with symptoms ranging from being severe to extremely severe. My althralgia symptoms were anything but severe, at most they were uncomfortable and have since abated.

Also I should mention that there are no symptoms of HIV when it is in its latent stage, which on average lasts between 5-10 years. However there are a few hints that should suggest that something is wrong:

-Persistent and generalized swelling of lymph nodes. These nodes are all over the body but gather in clusters in your neck, your armpits and your groin. The ones in the neck can be felt (if you press hard enough) and tend to swell more often. HIV causes generalized lymph node swelling, not just in one area but extensively. Generalized and hard swollen lymph nodes are always a bad sign.

Secondly, complaints of recurrent respiratory tract infections (e.g. sinusitis, pharyngitis, and otitis media), is an often overlooked sign that could suggest latent HIV.

Written by Chizzie

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41 Comments

  1. trystham
    June 19, 06:13 Reply

    After all those panic moments, swearing off sex and promising celibacy, the really annoying thing is I would still bareback AGAIN. Sometimes, I can be such an idiot.
    Felt I was back in class though. Almost drooled on my phone at some point.

    Anyway, Chizzie, you don’t have to go all ‘Mr Lecturer’ to score points. At the point where ppl don’t identify with your write-up, they lose interest…especially if they don’t have to write tests on them

    • Chizzie
      June 19, 06:58 Reply

      keep having bareback sex… go on. keep it up.

      • trystham
        June 19, 08:02 Reply

        *sarcasm noted but slips off back like water* Hmph

  2. Marvin
    June 19, 06:47 Reply

    Educative, well written and “non-rambling”. Welldone!

  3. Iduke
    June 19, 08:45 Reply

    ” Forgive me” my comment on this post is going to be a little more than critical tending to the destructive. I wasn’t impressed. I don’t care if u care bout my opinion. Imagine a lovely read turns sour at the name of the author. U sounded too preachy and ur punctuation need a revamp. BUT those things don’t matter because it is a blog. U need not be have a publishing contract to have a voice and make it heard. Chizzie if ur writing is so fabulous go write a book. And don’t bore us with ur ramblings. Remember it’s my opinion. I don’t need u to share it. It’s just meant to be!

    • Chizzie
      June 19, 08:56 Reply

      “ur punctuation need a revamp”…ok.

    • trystham
      June 19, 10:45 Reply

      Preach bruva. Say it lak it cums from da lawd

      • Marvin
        June 19, 10:55 Reply

        And I thot someone wanted to show us how well she can take criticism? Loool

  4. Iduke
    June 19, 09:04 Reply

    “So please as we shag and go from lover of lover”. Ok

  5. Lanre Swagg
    June 19, 10:47 Reply

    Looking beyond the content and analysing the execution helps me understand Chizzie more. All that Cowellism. Consistent.

  6. Blaq Jaqs
    June 19, 14:50 Reply

    Some random philosopher once said: the right to swing your arm ends where my nose begins or something of that funny nature. I remembered this because of late, some of us here (me inclusive) bicker and banter over the most mundane things all under the auspices of ‘no ramblings’ or ‘in my opinion’. I feel like the ripple effect of this could result to a decline in contributions and stories premised upon the fear of their works being torn apart. I hope we all focus more on content, sharing experiences and lessons.

    After reading this piece and learning about the death of an acquaintance earlier this week, I have a question for Chizzie. The tone of your piece gives the impression that the writer sees HIV+ like a death sentence. At least that’s what the bouts of depression and elation after the results translate to for me. If I’m correct, what are the reasons for that perception?

    • pinkpanthertb
      June 19, 15:07 Reply

      I absolutely love this comment. Blaq, you said what I’ve been restraining myself from saying, lest I come off as shirking my duties as a ‘moderator’. Lol
      First of all, this blog is about sharing our stories, our loves, our fears, our lives, our mistakes. Sharing and having others learn from them or enjoy them, whichever the case may be. That was the intention of this blog. But in recent times, the focus appears to be shifting to how well or badly the writer penned the piece, which isn’t all that bad. Constructive criticism isn’t a bad thing, especially in the case of writers learning to pick up a few tips of the trade to improve. But the thing is, this isn’t a literary blog, and not every contributor is a writer. And so, when all we want to do is pick apart the pieces of every publication, how does that encourage those who want to contribute more stuff for the upkeep of the blog, hmm?
      Secondly, (and this is no personal attack on you, Chizzie, in light of our recent altercation), I also couldn’t help but notice, like Blaq, that the undertone of this piece is predominantly that of a loss of all hope should the outcome of any HIV scare be positive for HIV. I get that you narrated a dreadful episode you passed through once upon a time, but this story also bears a message, one of carefulness and caution in all sexual associations. You were however focused on those who are unsuspecting of their HIV statuses and those who have become knowledgeable that they are negative, and with that effort, you shunned those who are living with the knowledge that they are positive, unintentionally (I hope) relegating them to that backend area of ‘If you have it, then your own don finish be that.’
      Isn’t your message also supposed to include encouragement to this lot? Because frankly, anyone struggling with and living with HIV, who reads this, will not feel heartened when he or she is done.

      • Marvin
        June 19, 15:36 Reply

        A billion likes for this comment by blaq. God shall pepper your stew, biko. Its one thing that’s responsible for this. BITCHINESS. And its something I just can’t stand. This was supposed to be a place where we talk to one another, learn and grow. The one place that was supposed to be like a “comfort zone” has turned into something cold and grotesque. Comments should be kind, helpful and considerate. We reap what we sow and we are all responsible for this.
        Pink_aunty, thumbs up for the maturity you have shown so far. Keep it up!

      • xpressivejboy
        June 19, 21:25 Reply

        I wish there was a LIKE button here; I do love this comment.

        Thanks PinkySweet and GorgeousBlaq.

        I see a twinnie in MarvinDoll.

    • Chizzie
      June 19, 15:43 Reply

      Good question. I reacted as every other human would. No one exactly feels thrilled about the possibilities of being HIV positive; I found that initially I was so terrified and yes the thought of HIV was like a death sentence to me; but at a point I figured if I were indeed positive then all the crying, and mopping around wouldn’t change it..and id have to be a big boy and live with it. its all part of the grieving process isn’t it? First comes Denial and then Anger and finally Acceptance.

      The point I was trying to convey is; When in doubt, get a blood test.l. HIV might not kill u so fast but anxiety would.

      • Blaq Jaqs
        June 19, 17:50 Reply

        Selah. I’d be scared at first too (I want to know what is responsible for this fear for me and the several others out there) I like to believe I’m enlightened and my status shouldn’t mean living a life different from what I have now (if for anything I’d be more health conscious self) but still there’s that initial unease.
        You seem cautious and meticulous, how come you were able to sleep with the same guy within such a short period without using protection?
        P.S. I’m not playing shrink, just trying to learn as much here…

      • Chizzie
        June 19, 18:09 Reply

        how come? I think we were both so consumed with lust that the idea of using condoms was far from our minds.

  7. KingBey
    June 19, 15:35 Reply

    A nice write up. I really loved this. If only we make sure we ALWAYS use a Condom anytime we have sex…whether with a stranger or with our Lover….because HIV can also be given to you by your loved one…All in all, na one thing go still kill man…be it Boko, Accidents, Diseases in whatever name they come in….point is, be careful, be happy and enjoy life while you can.
    I must add that Chizzie really did a good job at addressing this issue of HIV here, we all tend to shy away from it while it’s something we can never avoid as long as we are MSM who are sexually active. he wasn’t judgmental or using too much grammar. i don’t think there’s any illiterate in our midst. All you need do is to look up for any word you don’t understand. There’s no need to go all offensive at one’s post here. We are supposed to be one family.

    • Marvin
      June 19, 15:39 Reply

      KingBey, understand what’s happening here. Its revenge. LOL

    • Chizzie
      June 19, 15:57 Reply

      I think in their petty attempt to get revenge at me (for God knows what), they are missing the essence of this post. I like to think that someone might read this post and be more cautious and in doing so, save lives. However I like that some can see beyond the pettiness and ask indepth and thought provoking questions. .. cc Blaq Jaqs 🙂

  8. Rapu'm
    June 19, 16:39 Reply

    Oh, so this is the stuff you’ve been whining about, Chizzie. (Smiles). I’m glad your whinning yielded result, because this is good. I remember once hooking up with some guy, and he was like, ‘Okay, you did your HIV test recently, huh? I did mine too recently, so let’s bareback.’ I remember that I refused. This guy then said there was no condom in the house. Imagine! After assuring me that he had them stashed. He was serious, I was horny, I almost gave up. But I persisted. I when he finally saw I was serious and would only do oral with him, he started fishing in his bag. When I confronted him about lying, he said he didn’t know he had one remaining. Suffice it to say that later that night he still fished another one for a second round. So much for only one remaining! Moral of the story? Some of these guys are just crazy like that. Be careful. Good one, Chizzie.

  9. Too Late
    June 19, 16:41 Reply

    Hi Chizzie, good write up. I don’t mean to castigate you but yr write up just brought back memories of how one careless night made me HIV+ I remember that day vividly and whom I had sex with (it happened Nov 4th 2008). It donned on me that I had made a grave mistake. And after months of grieving and fear I tested positive just a week to my birthday. Today, I have come to accept myself this way and only hope I live long to achieve all the ambitious dreams I had back in the university. I think this is a write up to create awareness and I cherish the boldness of using a personal experience. Thank you!

    (I really wish there was a cure, I still cry in my darkest hours)

    • pinkpanthertb
      June 19, 16:53 Reply

      You’re truly strong. I admire your frank acceptance of this, and your determination to not let it ruin anything for you. Someone, a friend, recently told me a slogan he usually goes by. A slogan I’ve decided to marry myself. Every Thing Good Will Come. Shed less tears. And keep being as strong as you are.

    • Chizzie
      June 19, 17:21 Reply

      wow. I’m sorry it brought back those memories. and admire ur courage. and I’m so glad u were brave enough to go get tested. I must admit it took me quite some time (and constant sermons from my bff ) to finally have the balls to go get tested. And I know this is absolutely crazy but I’ve heard stories where ppl were miraculously healed of HIV…the idea might seem silly but u have nothing to lose by having faith and praying and trusting God to heal u. Good luck!

  10. kingbeepinkpabtherbf
    June 19, 16:57 Reply

    Wow! What an awesome piece.
    I can imagine the psychological stress that you’d gone through.
    Glad you learnt your lesson and thanks for educating us medically.

  11. JustJames
    June 19, 19:35 Reply

    I went through something almost similar last year. I’d get sick and feel my lymph nodes swell around my throat and I’d get bouts of fever or flu like symptoms. I was fucking scared

    I know people say that having HIV isn’t the end of life… but it’s very hard to see it that way. You become too painfully aware that your days are numbered.

    Well… I did a test one day. With the first ever salary I had gotten and it was the scariest moment of my life. I was out to my family and what would go through their minds when their gay son has HIV.

    Thankfully I was negative. I was so ecstatic I kept looking at the test results just to make sure I wasn’t dreaming.

    Then I told my mum about it and she goes “are you are sure they did it well”

    I just mumbled something and cut the call in annoyance.

    Nice write up chizzie. A tad bit depressing and I feel sorry you might get creaky bones when you grow old. Make sure you take lots of calcium and phosphate supplements.

  12. trystham
    June 19, 19:45 Reply

    You really have an overbloated sense of self (anyway, if you don’t, who will?) Nwam, get off your giant horse. A fall will break ur neck.

    @Blaq Jaqs when he took on that lecturer tone in the story, u cud be sure that condemnation streams in his blood. I do not imagine the “its your fault you are stupid enough to go and get HIV” my head says is his voice. Like I said in James’ journal, his life is so ordered and dull, he cannot accept deviations from his own script for others.

  13. Lanre Swagg
    June 20, 08:48 Reply

    To contributor called ‘TooLate’, my father swallows a cocktail of like 6 tablets every single day. They are for his heart condition, his diabetes, his hypertension and god chronic pain.

    My mother swallows 3 every day. Hypertension and arthritis.

    If you know anyone with Tuberculosis, they can have 3 to 6 tablets every day depending on their provider.

    You probably take 2 tablets daily for HIV, and if you are on the combined pill, only one. With current research you could eventually be on zero pills.

    How are you worse off than my dad, my mum, and millions of TB and cancer patients all over the world, some of whom are bedridden in addition?

    My point is that the stigma attached to HIV is heavier than the infection itself, and try as we may we can’t discourage Africans from the fear of living with HIV because Africans are more naturally prone to fear than to logic.

    2 of my closest friends died recently, one from a road accident the other from asthma. How is that less tragic than dying from HIV? Is HIV the only way to die? How many HIV infected people die nowadays? None, if on treatment. Why are HIV and death still strongly associated in people’s minds? Because of articles like Chizzies, which inadvertently promote stigma while wanting to teach about healthy choices. Why does Chizzie write that way? Because Chizzie is careful to the extreme, in a way that fully qualifies him/her to continue to be our Simon Cowell.

    • pinkpanthertb
      June 20, 08:56 Reply

      LOL.

      Ok sorry guys, I don’t know why my first instinct was laughter. In my defense, there’s a certain dark humour to this comment. There’s also a wealth of truth, however caustically imparted.
      ‘Africans are more naturally prone to fear than to logic.’ That line tho. Lanre, you sef eh. Lol

  14. keredim69
    June 20, 13:00 Reply

    Chizzie, this is a good story and quite intelligent. May i ask, is it fiction or non fiction or a hybrid of both?

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