MY DISCOVERY

MY DISCOVERY

Sometime in April, I escorted some relatives to the market to get food stuffs. There I was, seated somewhere in the market, waiting for them to get done, when I was overcome by dizziness. After being indoors for most of that day, I assumed a brief change in environment must have led to this sickly feeling I was getting. So I bought sachet water and expected to get better afterwards.

But I was wrong. My condition worsened so much I had to call my relatives to tell them to get done quickly because I wasn’t getting myself anymore. They eventually finished buying. But while we walked home, what I experienced got even worse; a general wooziness and fever that came with serious weakness. I couldn’t lift a thing or sit on a bike, so we were forced to take a drop back home. I immediately knew this was malaria. Although it happens very rarely, it always comes with this sort of force. I get useless almost immediately but a dose of Coartem and Paracetamol tablets gets me back on my feet within a day at most. So I took this routine medication coupled with the invaluable care I got from this relative, and I was good. Sadly, that wasn’t going to be the end.

Less than two weeks later, the same experience repeated itself, this time more protracted. I went for malaria, typhoid and blood count tests, and malaria and typhoid were detected, albeit in small proportions according to those who understood the result. I could barely do anything including eat. I remember surviving on custard, drips and oral drips for that one week, alongside tablets of course. Not too long after I got better, I got struck down again, this time as brief as the first.

When I finally recovered, I knew I had to go test for something more underlying. These episodes were unusual. Having and treating malaria back to back like this wasn’t normal for me. I always knew I needed to go test for HIV. I wasn’t ignorant of all the awareness and education and stigma that existed out there. For some reason, I just hadn’t made up my mind, mostly because I rarely fell ill and was always fine. I wouldn’t say I was scared, although I knew I’d been reckless and the statistics showed that persons like me were more likely to contract the virus. I just didn’t see the need.

But it happened that on that fateful day, I walked into this private hospital nearby and paid 1, 500 naira for the test. This was the same hospital I had gone for the previous tests. After waiting for a few minutes, I was beckoned by the lab scientist who extracted blood again, as if to confirm what she saw. At this point, I already knew my fate. After much hemming and hawing, she called on the doctor on seat to have a chitchat with me. After asking questions about having a girlfriend and all that stuff, she revealed I was reactive (what you call positive) and, as if to give me hope, said this was just a screening test and I needed to visit a big lab facility on the other side of town for a confirmation test. She talked about the probability of a false positive but also recommended where I could go to if it was confirmed. She did succeed in giving me hope, using semantics like ‘screening’ and ‘confirmation’ to allay my fears. So in the meantime, I didn’t conclude. I just looked forward to the confirmation result.

I went for the confirmation test, charged at another 1, 500 naira, and both fortunately and unfortunately, it took about five days for me to get the result. According to them, they had to send the sample to another city for proper confirmation. Quite rigorous of them. These few days gave me time to process the whole thing; keeping an open mind and expecting the good or the bad equally. At least, I didn’t have to be bombarded with two HIV positive results in a single day. That would’ve been terrifying.

The D-day came and I collected my fate enveloped like a parcel. On my way out, I tore open the envelope and alas, it was confirmed. I can’t recall the particular strand of HIV that it was, but it was there – REACTIIVE, in bold letters this time.

A deluge of emotions ran through me as I walked home. Questions and answers, both rational and irrational preoccupied my mind. Is it really better knowing this? What does my health become from here? Where do I go to receive medication? How much is it going to cost me? What does my sexual and relationship life become henceforth? Who and who do I confide in? Who and who are open-minded and educated enough to be of assistance and won’t be superstitious and judgmental? What friends and relatives are worth sharing this discovery with? These and more were the tough questions I got submerged in during this panicked period.

But through all this, a dear friend stood by me. The most important thing I needed at this point was someone I could talk to, someone to unburden and release myself to, and he was right there for me. He told me to be strong and that I was going to be fine. I certainly knew openly gay men living with HIV and I knew they were fine. The likes of Bisi and Brandmuse were perfect examples. But at this moment, I needed those words said to me and this friend was there to repeat them over and over again. He was my crutch at this critical period. I didn’t tell him I was broke, but he sent me the money for my second test. I was getting ready to visit a general hospital around to start medication when he sought my permission to speak to a friend of his who had also confided in him and disclosed he was positive. I and the guy got talking and he recommended a place he believed I could go to get better attention. I never really liked the idea of a general hospital in the first place from stories I’d heard about treatment of patients there, so I baulked at this option. Though quite a distance from where I stay, I don’t regret going there for medication. I spend a whole day to and fro, but since it’s not something I have to do every day or even every week or month, I take on the stress. It’s my health after all.

I was able to overcome that phase and I’m glad to say I’m doing very fine presently, thanks to these two guys and a pharmacist friend of mine I eventually told after much consideration. Knowing I’m living with the virus has been an experience these past few months. My CD4 read 435 and I was placed on drugs the first day after receiving some very helpful sensitization from a nice nurse at the hospital. I was also placed on TB prevention tablets after the first month of taking ARVs. I try to take my diet seriously as well. Experts say fruits and vegetables can do a lot of magic and I’m heeding accordingly.

Since my discovery, I’ve taken time to educate myself on the current info there is about the virus, how best to go about living with, stories and interviews of persons living with it and most especially the scientific progress that’s been made so far, all of this through the internet. I must confess, this process of self-education has been most liberating. I understand there is a lot of ignorance and stigma out there. I know humans prefer ignorance to knowledge; the former is comforting and blissful. I know that many of us aren’t quite as open-minded and educated as we love to think we are, both consciously and otherwise. I further know that henceforth, I am a minority within a minority and my story will from now on become more peculiar. But in all this, I take hope in knowing that there are many like my dear friend out there. Out of carefulness, I have become more self-engrossed these past few months. Every chance or opportunity to get laid comes with lot of self-criticism. Anytime someone expresses their admiration for me, I feel like asking them, “What if I told you I have HIV?” If I find myself doing the admiration, I also ask, “What if I give this person the virus?”

I know there is protected sex, but I’ve not summoned enough courage to freely go that ‘safe’ route. I know I will, eventually. I understand that stuffs like PReP and PeP aren’t very available in Nigeria at the moment. But even with all these precautions, I still get curious: how many persons will get down with a person knowing they have the virus? How many will get into a relationship with a positive person? How many are cool being friends with one? I assume there are some, like my good friend, not to be totally pessimistic. But what will you do if that friend, that handsome guy, that random gay guy, tells you they had HIV? Will they become a walking avatar of sexual promiscuity in your eyes? Will they become a blight on the gay community and humanity at large to you? Will you go telling it on the mountains, over the rivers and everywhere that this one has HIV? Or will you rather dwell in that blissful bubble of your ignorance?

Written by Luther

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23 Comments

  1. chuck
    September 27, 05:43 Reply

    Tbh, it’s hard to get into relationships with people with life changing medical conditions. But then you never know.

    It’s better to be honest with prospective partners, though.

  2. ambivalentone
    September 27, 06:56 Reply

    Good mindset and that makes you someone who deserves every good thing in this life, a great relationship included.

    OAN I think I saw on someone’s TL the virus might be spreading at an alarming rate. He claimed 7 outta 10 tested +ve in a day. Scary stats really. Y’all take care.

  3. Witch
    September 27, 07:18 Reply

    awww… really sad! the day i did my test, i almost fainted! but it came out negative after all my Waka waka!

  4. esv.jay
    September 27, 08:30 Reply

    one of the guys squating with me is a doctor at a clinic and he claims the rate is alarming

  5. Canis VY Majoris
    September 27, 09:05 Reply

    I salute your perseverance and wish you all the best in your future endeavors.

    My doctor friend always says “there are worst things to happen to a man, than HIV”. The real ailment is not the virus, but the stigma that comes with it, and no one is to blame but society”.

  6. Mandeville
    September 27, 10:17 Reply

    I understand where Luther is coming from as I’ve been in the same situation. People really do not look into HIV until it stares them in the face. Fortunately for me, prior to my diagnosis, I had boyfriends who were living with HIV, one for almost as long as I’ve been alive and I really learnt a lot from them about living with the virus. Both undetectable for more than 12 years. Just so you know, I didn’t get infected by them.
    Truth is, people aren’t really protecting themselves at the moment in Nigeria. You’d meet a guy for the first time or even after subsequent meets who tells you that he doesn’t have a condom and that you’d be the first person he’s gone bareback with. What he won’t tell you is how many other people he’s used the same line on or how many actually fell for it. And he claims he’s top putting you, who’d be bottoming, in the position of considerable risk. Most people don’t know but when people are at their most infectious is within the first three months of infection where reactive tests can come out negative because the antibodies the body produces to combat the virus isn’t detectable by conventional tests but the virus can be in the hundreds of thousands to tens of millions of copies per ml of blood. You then go and have vigorous sex with such a person bareback or using condoms and inappropriate lubrication, putting yourself at a huge risk of infection. Bottoms, Why would you go to a one night stand without proper protection and lubricants? Lotions, Vaseline and oils aren’t ideal for latex condoms, just to be clear. Condoms and proper water based lube are cheap and affordable now. Use them. Receptive partners are at a bigger risk of infection than insertive ones.
    Another problem here is that legislation appears to stigmatise people who have actually gone the length of knowing their status. Someone who knows he’s positive and has sex going through all the rigors to protect his partner is liable for prosecution because he did not disclose his status while those who are but don’t know are free to have bareback sex under the guise that they did not know? I’d rather trust someone who tells me he is positive than one who claims he’s negative. For example, in a cosmopolitan city like London with world beating healthcare, the statistics for positive gay men without knowledge of their status is 1 in 7: that’s over 14% of positive gay people in London and this was in 2014. How much more in a city like Lagos where it could be the exact opposite?
    Another bit of info people don’t know is that of being ‘undetectable’. Rate of infectiousness is determined by the detectability of the virus in the blood measured by the viral load. A viral load is the amount of copies of a virus is a sample of blood, usually one millilitre. To clarify, a positive person with detectable viral load has over 50 copies of the virus in an ml of his blood. Undetectable people have less than 50. In some countries like the U.K., undetectable is put at less than 20. Sadly people, here in Nigeria at least, see being undetectable as a ruse to have bare back sex but it’s not. Not every undetectable person wants to have bareback sex because there are other infections out there, like hepatitis, which some people don’t even know about, that they are weary of.
    Other things you should also know about HIV;
    chances of oral transmission is very low unless there are sores in mouth and/or on penis/anus.
    Being undetectable in the blood doesn’t mean its all clear, just yet. The detectability of the virus in other bodily fluids eg semen, vaginal fluids etc lag behind that of the blood. Being undetectable for at least six months is the WHO minimum.
    The virus cannot be transmitted from people that have achieved overall undetectability, as long as you stay that way. So undetectable viral loads is almost as safe as being negative. But keep on protecting yourselves. Hep C is a lot worse than HIV.
    Positive people can have relationships with negative people.
    Due to the scourge of stigma, be careful of whom you disclose your status to. Guage their reaction with respect to HIV. If you want a relationship with someone, open up about your status before hitting the sack. Better to deal with it upfront before any emotional investment.
    Poz guys, your happiness is dependent on only you. No one can make you happy if you don’t want to be happy. Life doesn’t end with your positive diagnosis. It’s just beginning.
    Neg guys, do everything within reason to stay negative. Popping pills the rest of your life is no joke but remember that as you have sexual needs, so also do poz guys. Just because they are positive doesn’t mean their sex life became zero. Be open minded and accepting. It’s hard enough for them as it is. Read up and educate yourselves about HIV. Also, try and go for a test at least once or twice every year, for those who do not have a risky behaviour. Those who put themselves at risk more often should have more regular checks, at least every three months. Getting treatment early is paramount is living a healthy life.

    I’m no doctor, just giving my 2cents worth of knowledge. If it helps someone, then it’s been worth all the struggles I’ve been through.

    Cheers. ???????

    • keredim
      September 27, 17:33 Reply

      “I’m no doctor, just giving my 2cents worth of knowledge…”

      Dude, you may not be a doctor, but what you said here about HIV is a lot more candid than anything I have read about the topic on this forum.

      Thanks for being blunt.

      PS the rise in HIV infections in the UK and London in particular, in recent years, is largely due to the increase in Chem sex. This also goes hand in hand with the knowledge that HIV is no longer a threat, because of developments in medicine that prevent infections turning into full blown AIDS.

      But like you said “Popping pills the rest of your life is no joke…” If that is the way guys wanna go, its their choice…

      Again thanks for your candor. All the best.??????

      • Mandeville
        September 27, 18:21 Reply

        I agree with you completely. Another point negative people should really consider about remaining negative, especially those who are looking for a way out of Nigeria, some countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand require mandatory HIV testing on visas if you’re going to be there longer than 6 months and if you can’t prove that you are not going to put a strain on their medical facilities, you could be denied a visa. Some countries do not even allow positive people at all in their territories eg the Mid East. So, to all the bug chasers out there, do have a rethink.

  7. doe eyed monster
    September 27, 10:57 Reply

    Wow.. .look at God.. .and I am just about to go the Medical Center in my school for HIV test. I would be leaving in an hour. I am trying not to be scared cause he has assured me ET al, but the condom broke and I dint know. When I found out, I was upset cause he knew and dint tell me. We are going together today though. Let’s hope we make it. If not.. I would just kill him.

    • Mandeville
      September 27, 11:44 Reply

      It hasn’t come to murder yet. A HIV test can be a daunting situation but the truth is, unless it’s been three months after the incident, most reactive tests can’t determine status. And it’s been less than three months, which it apparently seems to be, and, God forbid, it comes out positive, then it has nothing to do with him. If it’s under 72 hours since the act, and you are negative, you can look for a clinic that administers PEP but that depends on your location.

      • doe eyed monster
        September 27, 15:53 Reply

        Hmmm.. .thank you. I would be collecting my result in a few minutes… Hopefully it would be negative and then I would keep using good condoms and lube till after 3 months when I would check again.

        • Mandeville
          September 27, 18:05 Reply

          How’d it go mate? Hope you’re at ease.

    • Francis
      September 27, 15:20 Reply

      Nna take am easy. HIV positive while serving jail time in Naija is not a good picture at all. At least he managed to tell you so you can seek help asap.

      I know of someone who left his wife for another woman who has been sponsoring him and he has never revealed his status to the woman. He’s even thinking of paying his wife off to keep her mouth shut about his status *side effects of stealing other people’s property* Sorry for deviating.

      Best of luck man

  8. Delle
    September 27, 11:29 Reply

    Lol everyone is appraising his bravery and not answering the questions asked.

    To me, HIV is like feminism. Don’t try so hard to act like you don’t care it’s there or try so hard to make them feel good about themselves. Just treat them as you would treat the neighbour next door.
    To answer your question Luther, HIV is just that. It’s not even AIDS so why won’t I have a friend with HIV? Why would I see someone as a bag of promiscuity just cos he is positive when it’s very possible that only one careless rump with a positive person is enough to inflict you.

    Take care of you, Luther. And keep being fierce!

  9. Peak
    September 27, 13:43 Reply

    Reading stories like this, has a way of taking me to a dark place. Can someone please explain what “reactive phase or reactive” means?
    I am particularly happy that u have settled into the new you.

    Ur last paragraph though! Didnt see those coming.
    Thanks for sharing.

    • Francis
      September 27, 15:02 Reply

      “Reactive phase” asin when the HIV test can come up as positive. If your body doesn’t hasn’t formed antibodies against HIV yet, you aren’t in the reactive phase yet.

  10. GOld
    September 27, 14:03 Reply

    Luther, I salute your courage. I really do. It’s a good thing you have done

    I found out I was HIV+ January this year . I was in a relationship then and I told the guy I was dating about it. To cut the long story short, he broke up with me about a week later.

    Fast forward to some months after and I met someone who asked me out. I told him about my status and he’s cool with it. We are still dating now and he encourages me daily to take my drugs. Even when we hadn’t started dating, he was the person who forced me to go to the hospital and get my drugs.

    What’s my point?? There are still beautiful people out there. Maybe rare, but yeah they are out there.

    Don’t berate yourself about it. Besides, sex isn’t the only means of transmitting HIV.Just be the best person you can be and pls, be truthful to whoever genuinely, truthfully, wants to be with you. You may be just just as amazed as I was.

    Cheers!!????

  11. Francis
    September 27, 15:13 Reply

    @Luther the Lord is thy strength. Hang in there. This is just one of the many side effects of the anti-gay law. If it wasn’t in place, you’d be able to meet and date other HIV +ve folks in support groups just like HIV +ve straight folks are able to do.

    Not everyone is willing to date someone with HIV or any other “heavy” ailment and you can’t really blame them as you’d most probably act the same way if you were in their shoes. For those who chose to do so, they’ve been enlightened and very possibly love you enough to take the risk.

    Thanks for sharing your story and being a source of strength and support for others.

    P.S: Unemployed lawyers in the house, see market. I don’t understand how in this day and age, one would be handed HIV test results without proper rigourous pre and post test counselling. Na so people dey collect results, lose their minds and jump in front of the next trailer they see ??

  12. Lopez
    September 27, 17:44 Reply

    Luther, keep ur head up with ur battle, u r courageous, I salute. To answer ur questions; honestly I cant be in a rship with a +ve person coz i’ll not enjoy it knowing i’m putting myself at risk… d pep nd prep thing cant b found around me. But i’ll surely be friends with a +ve person, if we were already friends i’ll draw them more closer, i’ll keep my mouth shut about their struggle nd i’ll fight whoever stigmatize them.

  13. AP 1.0
    September 27, 21:14 Reply

    so my friend referred me to this article thinking I wrote it…
    truth is I was tested positive in April too. Our stories are very similar except that it was my sister who recommended the test after I got sick twice in three week. I was with friends, gisting when I was told. Not on ARVs yet cos my last CD4 count was 835.
    I think I pretty lucky too cos my sister is a Doctor and I have an amazing friend who has been supportive all through.. Funny enough, when I was told, I didn’t cry or go into depression…
    the first time I really sat to think and cry about it was when a month later, I told a guy I liked and he stopped calling…

    • Eugene
      September 28, 07:46 Reply

      Awww! That guy is a cow. Lol

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