June 2015

We’d had no light or water in school for a couple of weeks, and students, being the mad dogs they were, went on rampage. That night, it was mayhem everywhere as students destroyed school property and took to the streets, blockading the whole school and forcing motorists to turn off their headlights. What was supposed to be a peaceful protest spiraled into pandemonium, and not even security agents could put the body of students under control. The next day, as a consequence of the chaotic movement, the school was shut down for two weeks. Because I was often suffocated at home, I opted to stay back in school at my ex’s place. We had mended fences prior to that time and were “just friends”.

Barely two days after I moved from the hostel to his place, the issue of our broken relationship came up in our conversation. He was in his final year and I in my penultimate year, and we sort of realized we had grown to be more mature, more emotionally stable and better people than we were in the two years we were together. And so, I wanted to give us a shot again. We had sex a number of times. It was unprotected. I guess I was too willing to give us a shot; I had just reconnected with this guy I would give anything to be with, even if it meant having raw sex with him.

However, it didn’t take long for me to realize that he wasn’t done dealing with the demons that ruined our relationship. We tried to stay on track, to make it work. But I suppose we just weren’t meant to be. We called it quits again and decided to friend-zone each other for life.

Shortly after that, I had this weird premonition that something was wrong with me health-wise. But I didn’t dwell on the foreboding much because I’d just gotten tested in March and I was negative for virtually every STI. The ex had also tested negative that March (or so he said).

So I put the feeling out of my mind and went on with life.

And then came, that period, when I made a personal decision to not have sex till I met the right guy. I mean, 19 guys in 7 years was too huge a body count for me. This decision began my first stab at celibacy, which lasted for over seven months and ended when I had sex with a straight friend. (Check  State of Our Union for that story).

After that messy situation, I went on a second hiatus from sex. This has gone on for fourteen months. It’s still going.

*

March 2017

The sun is frigging hot overhead and the heat is unbearable as my friends and I make our way down to the school’s stadium for our weekly Society for Family Health sponsored MSM Health programme. Today’s meeting is a little different. There are more SFH workers around, and information is getting passed around that free HIV tests will be conducted for everyone.

For the first time in my life, I’m not bothered by the idea of getting a HIV test. I’d done it about ten times in the past and freaked out every single time. Maybe my calmness this time is because I’ve come to learn a lot about HIV to know it isn’t the death sentence people make it out to be.

When it gets to my turn, I am completely bereft of emotions. During the test, I chit-chat with the health worker and he is dropping the usual tidbits of advice on safe sex, how HIV isn’t the end of one’s life and all that.

As we chat, I take a quick glance at the strip.

Two lines. Positive!

The health worker, who has now taken a look at it, creases his forehead in mild confusion, and says it is still inconclusive (as if!). He suggests we run a second test. He brings out the test tablet and conducts the second test.

Still positive!

At this point, one would expect that I’d freak out. Surprisingly, I am calm. My mind races through a lot of things, but hysteria remains locked down. I stay calm as the health worker speaks to me, referring me to a hospital where I can have a confirmation test and start receiving treatment.

I am seated there, somehow not surprised by the result. I think, on some level, I’d known since 2015 that I’d contracted the virus. I just wasn’t bold enough to face it. And, funny enough, for someone who falls sick at least four times in a year, I haven’t been sick once since June 2015. Maybe that’s why I knew something was wrong.

Realizing I’m HIV positive has done a lot for me in this very short while. For one, I’ve come to realize that I’m surrounded by wonderful people who would go to the ends of the earth for me. Friends like Delle, Peaches and my baby girl, Boos have been very supportive. They are the only ones who know, for now, and I’m just grateful to have them in my life. Not only have I come to understand the love I’m surrounded with, I’ve begun to see a light at the end of the tunnel I’ve been in for ages. I may not have clarity on where exactly I’m going, but for the first time in over five years, I know what to do with my life. I’d been confused for long, going about in circles and getting no reprieve. But now, it’s like my life has gotten a new meaning.

I know the journey is going to be a really tough one, but is anything in life ever easy? My life is an attestation of that; nothing in my life has been easy. I know Mother is going to rub this (should she learn about it) in my face, self righteously pointing out how it is a punishment from God for my sin of homosexuality. I know my sister would practically jump for joy that her predictions have come to pass. I know my father would be disappointed, sorely so. After all, I’m his only son. I know I stand the risk of being thrown out by my family.

However, I also know that life has never held more meaning for me than it does now. The brevity of life has been seared onto my sub-conscious, leaving me with a yearning to prove myself, to make an impact, to speak something everlasting with my life.

And even though they say no one knows the future, I know for certain that I’ll create a future I’ll forever be proud of for myself.

I’m HIV positive and my life has just begun!

Written by Mitch

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