By Rachel Moats, PWN-USA-San Diego Member
Two months ago my life was turned upside down for the second time. The first time was on March 19, 2013, when I found out I was HIV Positive. I have debated long and hard about if I was going to share this part of my story with the world, and I have decided that number one, I cannot go through this on my own and number two, people need to know this does happen and could be happening in their very own life.
You see, when I found out I was positive I knew right away who I had contracted the virus from. Not because I had always been a saint and never had the occasional one-night stand, but because at that time in my life I was only sleeping with one person. That person also happened to be my best friend. I knew all along that he was sleeping with other women. We never really discussed it until I found out I was positive, but I knew…
Therefore, when I found out about my HIV status, I never blamed. In fact, I blamed myself for not doing my part in protecting myself.
Our friendship never even wavered when we got the diagnosis. I accepted it for what it was and in a way I even embraced it. I held some animosity towards him for not disclosing his status to people the way I was, but eventually I realized I was being selfish in thinking that he should disclose his status the same way I was disclosing mine. In time I came to understand that everyone handles this situation differently. No two people deal with life’s trials and tribulations the same, especially when it comes to disclosing their HIV status.
When I was first diagnosed I heard so many people say that for a man to be positive he was more than likely sleeping with men. I didn’t believe that was the case with him. After our diagnosis it seemed our friendship and closeness with one another had grown tenfold and I felt a bond with him that I had never felt with anyone else. On several occasions I asked him straight up, “Have you ever slept with a man?” He told me no, but as time went on I kept hearing the same thing over and over again, even from medical professionals. So one day I said, “Please be honest with me, have you ever slept with a man?” Again, his response was no. I grew to believe him. I thought that there was absolutely no way that he was lying to me because I had been completely honest with him about EVERYTHING!
I analyzed his every move, every word, his mannerisms and interests. I analyzed everything about him. I now realize that there are no telltale signs to knowing if a man has sex with other men.
To be completely honest, after the diagnosis I clung to him for everything. I looked to him for sex, friendship, advice, love, a shoulder to cry on, an arm to sleep on, and a man to cuddle with. In a way he was my refuge from this big scary world. He grew to be “my person” and I loved him. I would have done anything for him. My heart tore when he had such a hard time getting his medication. My heart broke when he would tell me about his awful experiences with the doctors and insurance companies. I felt every ounce of pain that he felt. I felt it for him. When you find out that you are HIV Positive it is very scary. When you are single and newly Positive you start to think of all of the “What ifs?” What if I never find someone? What if I end up alone for the rest of my life? The what if, what if, what ifs are endless and they are absolutely terrifying!
A couple of months ago I stayed at his house; and on a Saturday when he went to work, I did something that I am not at all proud of. I looked through his phone. To be completely honest I’ve done that before. I’ve seen text messages and pictures from other women, but I had never seen anything that made me believe he was in love with any of those other women. I never said anything to him about the stuff I had seen because we were not in a relationship. I think I only looked to see if he was telling any of them that he loved them. I don’t know … It’s weird and extremely difficult to explain. I had hoped he would realize that he was in love with me and we would eventually be together.
What I saw that Saturday was extremely different. There were text messages that made me blush and embarrassed to even read. I googled one of the phone numbers and found it attached to an ad on an escort website, Backpage, and Craigslist. My heart sunk. I think I was in shock. It’s one thing to know he was sleeping with other women but it is a whole other ballpark to find out that he was sleeping with men too.
Since I’ve had a couple of months to process this information I’ve come to the conclusion that the reason I was so upset was because I put all of my eggs in his basket hoping for a beautiful outcome and now I know that no matter how beautiful I am or how much I love him or how honest I am with him, it will never be enough. He isn’t even honest with himself about who HE is. The sense of betrayal I felt was beyond anything I had ever felt before. I wish he would have been honest with me from the get go.
One of the reasons I am telling this story is because I am just now learning about the correlation between trauma and HIV among Positive women. Since I started my position as a Peer Navigator at Christie’s Place I have obtained a plethora of information regarding this issue. I am only just beginning to understand how my own past traumatic experiences have played a role in how I came to be HIV Positive. My “relationship” with the man who gave me HIV isn’t my first “relationship” of this type. It has been a trend in my life. Always picking the wrong man and always just accepting things the way they were and hoping for the best.
Since I have started working on my past issues with trauma, it has helped me to make better choices in my own life. Not only have I made healthier choices but I have also been able to finally understand why I made the wrong choices for me to begin with.
I know with my heart that providing Trauma-Informed Care to women living with HIV plays an instrumental role in helping them through their recovery and coping with their diagnoses. If you have experienced trauma in your life I urge you to start dealing with those issues. I believe if more women knew why they make the choices they make, it would help them to start making healthier life choices and quite possibly prevent them from having to experience the hardship of dealing with an HIV diagnosis altogether.
Rachel Moats is a member and Strategic Communications Action Team Rep for PWN-USA’s San Diego Chapter. Check out her website and blog at WeAreHIV.org!
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