IT IS ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS

IT IS ABOUT A LOT OF THINGS

December 1st is World AIDS Day. December is also the month I learned the bit of information that changed my life forever, making this month of 2020 the eighth anniversary of my life spent living with HIV. And in all that time, there have been many highs and lows, some wins and some losses, the joys and the tears characterizing my life as a poz person. I have consumed stories on this blog, from the brave step Kenny Brandmuse took to tell the world that he was HIV Positive and The +++ Journals penned by Temi-D right down to Mitch’s Eez Positive I Positive! I No Kill Person series and the inspiring finale to GT’s The College Chronicles. There have been many narratives here that show the struggles and exalt the triumphs, stories that make me continuously grateful that I am not alone and for the fact that there are those who have so overcome their shame, that they are able to put their stories out here for others to be inspired and encouraged.

In a society that still demonizes the HIV+ status so much, it makes the struggle especially more layered if you are a gay man who is HIV+. You are put in a spot where you shoulder additional baggage than the average gay man. You find yourself feeling like a shameful secret in a community that is already dealing with its secretiveness as a whole. Weeks ago, the story made the rounds that a gay man who worked as a barber committed suicide. While the community was still reeling with that, it then came out that he was HIV Positive, and that he killed himself because he could no longer handle being blackmailed by another gay man who he’d hooked up with. I do not know how true these aspects of this story are, but when I heard it, I didn’t find it hard to believe. I didn’t think it was unbelievable that a gay man would learn about another gay man’s HIV status – his lover’s, no less – and weaponize the knowledge against him. I didn’t find it farfetched that someone can be labouring under the shame of his HIV status so much, he’d consider suicide as the only way out.

The stigma that comes with being HIV Positive is very real. And it comes at you from everywhere: the society at large, the community you belong to, and you.

And so, whenever I read stories here or I learn about queer Nigerians who are living with HIV and are talking about it and demystifying it and using their lives to try and rescue others from their shame, it warms something inside me.

Because it is about Overcoming Shame; it is about living in the light of who you are, and not letting any circumstance becloud you.

*

Two Christmases ago, my elder brother came home from the States. It was his first time home in a few years, and the distance made him the only member of my family that I hadn’t told about my status. I’d decided that I would only deliver the news to my loved ones face to face.

But I never got the chance to tell my elder brother; he found out himself when he saw me drinking my medication. I was absent-mindedly observing this ritual while talking to my mother, and so, I didn’t see him pick up the pill bottle. Next thing we heard was his explosion: “So you have AIDS?!!!”

I won’t bother with the details of how overwrought that night turned out to be: the screaming matches as he railed against me and my mother, who refused to stand for his nonsense; the betrayal I felt ravaged with at his bias; the shock I could see him dealing with; and the eventual tears that came as he asked my mother with so much emotion, “Give me one good reason why you are so cool with this – with him having this disease?”

“Because he is my son. Because he’s a human being. Because his disease is no different from your ulcer. Because he has committed no crime by being HIV Positive. Those are four good reason; do you want more?” my mother said, unflinching in the face of his outrage.

That was two years ago. My brother has since come around, but I’ll never forget that moment when my mother confronted him with the reflection of his cruelty and questioned his lack of compassion.

Because it is about Humanity; it is about recognizing – especially in a world that has become modern and saturated with knowledge in its fight against HIV/AIDS – that the person living with it is a human, not a monster.

*

A few weeks ago, Nigerian Gay Twitter went into a bit of a meltdown over claims that staffers of NGOs and Queer Public Health clinics who are in charge of the healthcare of HIV positive community members are not to be trusted. No such NGOs or clinics were identified, but there were accusations of violations of patient confidentiality and several narrations of HIV clinic staffers either disrespecting the privacy of their patients or blabbing to third parties the status of their patients. I was truly horrified by this. And I remember contacting a friend who learned of his positive status late last year and was a patient of an NGO (whose name I’ll respectfully not mention), and when he saw the tweets, he panicked and subsequently yanked his healthcare from the NGO and transferred it to the hospital where I was receiving my own patient care.

In the past several days, I have encountered Facebook posts where the messy business was aired of a named unprofessional NGO staffer running his mouth about the status of his patients and getting beaten up for it.

THIS IS WRONG!!! This is stigma taking on a whole other look, made even more insidious by the fact that it is perpetuated by the institutions that are supposed to protect us, their own. Community members shouldn’t have to be fleeing from these places where they can be frank and open about their medical/sexual backgrounds, simply because they hire people who do not understand the concept of patient confidentiality.

Because it should be about Respect; it should be about preserving the humanity of the person whose health concerns are your obligation, and ensuring that you don’t become the monster inside here that they are escaping from outside there.

*

A week ago, when I went to the hospital to collect my medication, as is part of the procedure, I was sent in to see the doctor – and I did something I’d never done before in all the times I’ve sat down to go over my medical history with my doctors.

I told the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

You see, there are some of these hospital appointments when you sit with the doctor and they ask you about your circumstances since your last appointment. This inquiry, whose responses are recorded in your file, are often very personal, ranging from questions about your health, your family’s health, your relationships and your sexual history.

And for a very long time, since I was a patient there, whenever the doctor asked questions about my partner and the kind of sex I have, I always told lies of heterosexuality. “Yes, I’ve only had one girlfriend in the past six months…” “No, I haven’t had more than five female casual sex partners in the past year…” “Yes, it is vaginal sex I’ve had…”

The questions are routine, but the answers I gave meant so much to me because they were prevarications.

And then, last week happened. The doctor was young, male and tempered his professionalism with kindliness. And when we started going through those questions, I gave answers I’d never given before. Going by the history already recorded in my file, he’d even started anticipating my responses.

“So, is it the girlfriend you dated last year that you’ve still been with these past six months?” he queried.

“No,” I said, as my heart thumped away. “I haven’t been dating any girl even in the past year.”

“Oh, you’ve been single –”

“No, I’ve been dating a boy.”

He gave a start, looked up from his writing and stared at me. I stared back, my calm demeanour belying the raging wars of anxiety going on within me.

Then, without a word, he returned to the questionnaire. “Have you had more than five casual sex partners in the last year?”

He hadn’t presumed anything by adding “female” there. Dude was learning fast.

“Yes,” I answered.

“Male or female?”

“Male.”

“What kind of sex have you engaged in, in the past year?”

“Anal.”

“Were you the receiving or the giving partner?”

“Both.”

The further down we went on the list of questions that’d record my sexual history, the more liberated I was as I spoke my truth.

Because it is about Self-Truth; it is about taking those steps, boldly so, to represent yourself authentically before the world with an attitude that says: “There. I said what I said.”

*

On this day that commemorates World AIDS Day, on this day that recognizes the fight against HIV/AIDS and the consciousness of a world that treats the HIV+ community better, I want you to remember that it should be about a lot of things: that with every waking hour you live, every breath you take as a person living with HIV, it should be about Love, about Survival, about You.

Written by Dubem

Previous “It's Not Safe In The World.” Laverne Cox Describes A Horrific Transphobic Attack She And Her Friend Were Subjected To
Next KITO DIARIES PRIZE FOR WRITING: THE SECOND EDITION

About author

You might also like

Our Stories 29 Comments

The Phrase Gay People Need To Stop Using

Originally published on huffingtonpost.com “I’m not defined by being gay.” It’s time we retired this phrase.  There are a few reasons why it’s said, and a few (and much stronger)

Editor's Desk 17 Comments

Straight Guys Sound Off On Sleeping With Men (And Why They’re Still Straight)

Can a person have gay sex and still identify as straight? According to a new article by the Guyliner at GQ, the answer is: Totally! “It rather depends on what

Our Stories 31 Comments

Photo: What Bachelor Are You?

Lol. Oya o. This is for us in #TeamSingle. What category of bachelor are you or do you aspire to be before you succumb to #TeamMGM

9 Comments

  1. Hausdorff Space El
    December 01, 07:31 Reply

    Dubem this is so inspiring. I can only imagine the weight of your experience and how much mine resonates with it. Frankly speaking, stories like yours are what gave me the courage to make the best of my circumstance.

    Speaking on health workers being unprofessional, I can relate to that. Then on the other hand, just like you, there are so many personal stuff I have not been able to share with my health officers till date because I do not consider them a safe zone. I’m very much aware that them knowing these things will significantly affect the quality of care I get there after. Still, whenever I think of the collateral damage that comes with it, I hold my horses.

  2. Zoar
    December 01, 07:36 Reply

    You’re Strong Dubem.

    Keep Living.

    You’re not alone.

  3. Realme
    December 01, 08:10 Reply

    I love you so much Dubem.

    ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

  4. Saucebutton
    December 01, 09:32 Reply

    Cheer on Dubem, stories like yours and others will be a resounding music reminding me to not give up, to live, love and see that my dreams are birth into reality. Thank you.
    Today’s makes it 3month I got to know about my status.

    Really, the fear of the stigma is greater than the sickness itself.

  5. Lopez
    December 01, 09:39 Reply

    Nothing makes one feels relieved than telling your truth. Dubem, you’re an inspiration. Keep surviving and keep being strong. Bless your soul.

  6. McDuke
    December 01, 10:21 Reply

    I applaud your courage and approach to life. Kudos to everyone positive person out there, you guys are the real MVPs…keep living.

  7. Mitch
    December 01, 15:04 Reply

    You, my dear man, are the real OG!

  8. Joe
    December 02, 08:20 Reply

    Like Zoar said,keep living.

  9. Malik
    December 08, 06:05 Reply

    I said what I said energy!

Leave a Reply