My life was simple and small, or so I thought. Until I found out my partner was actually bisexual and had hidden his HIV status from me – all because he couldn’t accept who he was.
I’m straight, I live in suburbs and work in a cubicle. Boring, or it seemed so until my partner almost died from undiagnosed AIDS. The ignorance and denial that framed our ‘simple lives’ were stripped away. The future I believed in was gone. He had hidden the fact that he was bisexual and buried his HIV in the sand along with his head.
I had always known he had a wild past, but I didn’t care – I was in love with him. Love meant accepting everything about him, even the things I didn’t understand. I remember a conversation we had that in some ways sealed our fates. We were talking about his ex-wife who was bisexual. Of course I couldn’t stand her anyway, so in the conversation I expressed revulsion for it. “I don’t get it” I said; “Being gay is something else, it’s natural but that [being bisexual] is just an excuse to sleeping with… everybody”.
Truth be told even as I write this, I still don’t really get it but over the years I have come to have a live and let live attitude. It’s nobody else’s business who has consensual sex with who. Little did I know that my partner was also bisexual, and by saying what I said, I was closing a door that would keep him from ever being honest with me. Even now, to this day after all that has happened he still denies it. There is no point in confronting him while he is fight for his life, and besides the damage is done.
When we met nine years ago I fell so hard for him that I wanted to do everything right. After we had been together a while and he told me more about his past, I insisted that we go to the clinic and get STI tested. I had hardly been an angel myself, and I thought it would be the responsible intelligent thing to do and would just strengthen our relationship.
When they called to ask us to come back I don’t remember being upset or scared. I should have known though, because if you have to get medical results in person the news isn’t going to be good. They told me I was negative on all tests and asked if I would wait outside. They told him then that he was HIV positive and needed to have a confirmation test. Naturally he was upset but it seemed like the anger and upset was more directed toward me for making him take the test to begin with. He didn’t skip a beat but went straight to focusing on the likelihood that it was a false positive. He refused to get another test done.
It caused a huge rift between us. I pushed him to follow up on the test, but he still refused. I made sure that his ex-wife and another woman he had been seeing got anonymous notifications that were offered by the state. He was furious but I was following my conscience and trying to get him to come to reality. I got tested four or five times over the next year; all negative. Both of the other women were also negative. It all seemed as though I was just a massive drama queen.
One day he told he had in fact gone and taken the test again, which he said was negative and that the first one was a mistake. Still, I wanted proof. I had observed the fact that he had a propensity to lie and say whatever he thought someone wanted to hear. I asked him for something in writing even just showing he tested again at all, but all I got were excuses and resentment. My heart was broken and I couldn’t get over it. At that point we broke up, although we never stopped completely cut ties. We just weren’t together – I couldn’t bring myself to let it go. So quite like a chump, I always answered when he called.
About a year later, I came home to find him parked in front of my house. He had fallen from a roof and his wrist was badly swollen and distorted. I took him to the ER and it turned out he had to have surgery to get pins put in his arm. As they got him ready, they put him in one of those terrible hospital gowns and he was happily babbling from the sedative, I had a strange flash in my head. It was a feeling that resonated with this image I was seeing, a premonition that it was a familiar scene. At the time it was a split second that didn’t seem to mean anything.
The next day I came to take him home and help him recover for a couple of days. One of the first things he said to me was “See! I told you I didn’t have HIV. They took blood from me before the surgery and obviously it would have been a big deal. So I hope you are finally satisfied and will let the whole thing go”. I took that at face value as truth and never thought twice. Another year later he moved in with me and we started our new life. Everything seemed perfect, I had a new job and things were looking up. But thinking back, there were quite a few of those intuitive moments of premonition that I let go by.
Just over a month ago it all came crashing in, something went horribly wrong. He became very unwell and had to be eventually had to be admitted to hospital. I had been sitting with him in the ICU for 48 hours straight when I decided to go home, have a nap, take shower and grab a few things. Even as exhausted as I was I couldn’t sleep. As I lay there trying to meditate, all those moments started to play back in my head like a mosaic of movie clips. The picture started to come together in my mind and suddenly… I knew.
As I walked toward his room early the next morning, a team of doctors that were standing outside his door looked at me and suddenly fell silent. What I didn’t know was that they had waited for me to leave to tell him, and they knew he was about to tell me that not only was he HIV positive but he was so unwell that he had developed AIDS. It was really a very good thing that I had the idea firmly in my head already because I don’t believe he could have handled me freaking out or falling apart.
How ignorant we had been about the testing practices was the hardest thing to accept. Had he been treated sooner, it would never have come to this. All the times in these last few years he had been back in the ER or an urgent care clinic (for what we had concluded was COPD), it didn’t occur to us that never had they tested him for HIV – we, or I, thought it was part of the standard blood tests you have in hospital.
It feels like a nightmare. In just weeks he was completely incapacitated. Wasting syndrome (6ft tall 109lbs/49kg), dementia and a list of things I can’t pronounce. He came so close to losing his life because he was ashamed of his sexuality. He could have gotten treatment and been suppressed long before symptoms took him down. He could have lived a normal healthy life. Instead, he is hooked up to an oxygen machine 24/7, is in a wheelchair and wears ‘special’ underwear because things don’t always go right in that area.
He still has a very good chance to recover from some of the opportunistic infections, but it is a long hard road that I have to go down with him. It has devastated our lives already and it’s only just begun. I’m not going to pretend to be a saint or a martyr. I have been angry, resentful and straight up overcome with hatred at moments – he lied to me and stuck his head in the sand, and love struck me stuck mine in right in with his.
I am running myself ragged taking care of him all the while going broke from missing work. I have wanted to run away. I have a bug out bag for God’s sake, with my passport and some credit cards; but I know this is my life now too. I have to accept the life I chose. The life I created.
In case it’s not clear, the moral of my story is to love yourself, accept yourself and be authentic to who you are – and above all else KNOW YOUR STATUS so you can stay strong and give love and life a fighting chance.
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