December 1st gets the conversation rolling every year around HIV prevention, testing and treatment, but we feel that one day a year is just not enough. This is why Pineapple blog and the ‘And so it Happened’ project have teamed up for an entire month to share the stories of people living with HIV or on PrEP.
Each story is dedicated to encouraging people to remember how important it is to get tested and how we can combat the stigmas of living with the virus or being on PrEP. To read more about the project and the featured stories be sure to visit our sites!
Read James’s story below:
“I contracted the virus from my first partner. I was 21; he was 39. He was a chief judge, older, responsible, respectable and we were dating. I had heard of the mysterious disease killing gay men, particularly promiscuous gay men (according to media reports). I had no actual knowledge of the world of bathhouses and sex clubs, and it never occurred to me that he was enjoying that world regularly when he traveled. He told me there was no reason to use a condom during that first year we were dating. So, we didn’t. After I was raped by a friend, who learned he had AIDS and wanted to punish someone, my partner and I were tested and learned we were positive. I was “in trouble” as the doctor put it, but he was really sick. That was 1991 and I was 29.
I’ve been on meds since then and participated in many studies and drug trials. Currently, I take Tivicay, Abacavir, Lamivudine, Norvir, and Prezista.
After publication of my partner’s obituary, listing his cause of death as complications from AIDS related illness, job offers dried up. At interviews, the obituary was on the desk; of course, nothing was said about it and yet its presence said everything interviewers did not. Later, after I was the first openly gay attorney at the one firm where a Nexis search had not turned up the obituary, I had to go out on disability when my viral load spiked to nearly a million. My medical situation improved and I wanted to return to work. So I contacted recruiters and received a great deal of interest. After checking my references, not one firm or recruiter offered an interview or returned my calls. When I happened to run into someone I knew and cornered him to ask why, he stammered and told me that no one wanted the liability of having someone with AIDS on their health plan.
I remember when being positive was viewed as a threat. In my experience, the bias was often strongest among gay men, perhaps due to some combination of fear, denial, avoidance and guilt. I tended to avoid sex altogether. Today, in the age of PrEP, I am much more relaxed about sex. My greatest fear was never death, but of passing it on.”
James, 56, undetectable. Menlo Park, CA. Not currently working