It can’t happen to me
'There are some things that I never thought would happen to me. I mean, I’ve always been a careful person, bordering on obsessive-compulsive even. Everything I ever did was well thought out, from my choice in a partner to who my friends were.
So when I was told my boyfriend of two years was unfaithful to me, I refused to believe it. When he said that we should stop using condoms, I never asked why. I trusted this man with my life. I did everything that was expected of me as a girlfriend, so it was only fair that he reciprocates, right?
'Then I started to get sick. At first, I thought it was nothing: nausea, persistent coughing… Nothing I hadn’t gone through before: I went to the chemist each time, bought something over the counter. Problem solved. But this time I never got better, and I realised I had to see a doctor. So I did. He said I would need to have blood work done, and I assumed it was to be for the persistent sickness. I was not prepared for what the doctor would tell me.'
'He walked into the room with the results and I immediately knew there was a problem. He’s been treating me since forever, after all.
When he told me I had HIV, I went numb.
I can’t remember anything he said to me after that. All that ran through my mind was how could this happen? I only slept with one person… and then it hit me. My naivety had cost me dearly.
'When I confronted my boyfriend, I expected to be crying, to be broken. I wasn’t. As I sat listening to this person lie and lie again about how sorry he was, this person I had once trusted with my life, this person who had betrayed me completely and changed my life forever… I wish I had wanted to hit him, to hurt him and to make him pay, but there was nothing but apathy. I just wanted to be done with him.'
'It was really bad in the beginning, and I got really sick. I got breakouts on my skin, and people started to talk. What really bothered me was the people who I considered my closest friends and how they changed.
All of a sudden they wouldn’t hang out with me, as if I was contagious.
These were people in university, people who should’ve known better… People I loved. How could I have been so blind to how fickle they were?
'I thought the hardest part about having HIV would be the health aspect: watching what I eat, the medicine, the check-ups, the discipline, and change of lifestyle.
As difficult as that has been, it doesn’t come close to the emotional recovery I had to make. Forgiving myself for trusting a man who left me in this situation, realising that the people I thought were my friends were gone.
I had been pegged back to zero, literally having to start again in almost every aspect of life. Thankfully I have a support system around me, albeit a smaller one, and I’ve learnt from my mistakes.
The second time will be the charm.