DISCLAIMER: I am writing about my own personal experience. I am not giving medical advice. Anything medical I say comes directly from my doctor. You may think my doctor is wrong. This presents the perfect opportunity for you to have a discussion with your doctor, and then write your own article. I am also not a writer, this is the first thing I’ve written since college. My goal is to share, not dazzle you with my repartee.
I was a divorced mom with a five-year-old. I met Sam and his two cute kids at a school fundraiser. He was really nice and funny and I liked the way he was with his kids -- hands-on dads are great! I didn’t give him much thought, however, until a mutual friend told me he was single (why she didn’t introduce us three years earlier, I’ll never know.)
Our mutual friend invited Sam and I and the kids over for a playdate. Our soon-to-be kindergartners became friends. We flirted over many a playdate. My friend gave me his address and I covertly did a drive-by, just to spy. But he never asked me out. Finally, I asked him out.
We went to a Mexican restaurant in downtown Portland. It was odd, at first, not to have the buffer of the kids, but after our first margarita I unabashedly stared into his deep brown eyes. We talked long after the last plates were cleared. On the drive home he pulled down his pants, slightly, to show me his tattoo. I thought it was a perfect first date. As we neared his street (I was driving) I wondered if he was going to kiss me. Then we pulled in front of his house, and before I’d even stopped the car, he threw open the door and bolted out onto the sidewalk.
What the fuck? I guess I wasn’t as charming as I thought!
I was very surprised when he called me the next morning and asked me to meet him at the park. He brought his sweet dog (for moral support, I learned later.) I brought coffee and pastries, but he didn’t touch his.We sat on the grass and talked and he seemed really nervous.
Finally, he said he had something to tell me. I braced myself, thinking he must have a girlfriend. He came out and told me he was HIV+. I will never forget the scared look in his eyes. In a flash, everything made sense; he wanted to tell me before we ever kissed.
In an immediate rush of love and compassion I threw my arms around his neck and gave him many soft kisses before finally slipping my tongue in his mouth. He started to cry and said that that wasn’t the reaction he had expected.
He told me later that he hadn’t been kissed in years. He went home that day and burned the DNR card he kept in his wallet.
I’m not going to say Sam’s HIV didn’t give me pause. Even though I knew you couldn’t get it from kissing I wasn’t sure exactly how “catchy” it was. I researched. I talked to his nurse at the hospital. I talked to my therapist who, unfortunately, told me this would end sadly. She was wrong.
We continued to date. We went on crazy outings with all the kids. We went to movies and romantic restaurants and to concerts in the park. We fell in love.
When we started to have sex (my idea), Sam was so nervous he couldn’t even cum. He eventually relaxed and ever since I’ve had the best sex of my life.
Six months after meeting I got his grandmother’s engagement ring. Several months later we all moved in together. Six months later we had a lovely, small wedding.
That was seven years ago. Our children are beautiful and busy and brilliant. We live a chaotic life in our little house full of animals (the furry kind.) I am deeply, deeply in love.
I am going to answer some questions I think you may have. If I don’t answer your question, please ask in the comments sections.
1.Did my husband have a risky background?
No. He has never used needle drugs and has slept with a total of eight women. He contracted HIV from one of two one night stands (in his life) with unprotected sex. Scary, huh?
2.How do you have sex?
We use vaginal condoms. Once you get over the plastic feeling they are pretty comfortable. He has never cum in my mouth even though Sam’s doctor told us that, unless you have just had mouth surgery, it is very, very unlikely one could contract HIV this way. (I am NOT advising you medically -- go talk to your own doctor!)
At Sam’s doctor’s recommendation I take an HIV test just once a year (always been negative.)
3.What does life look like for an HIV+ person who was diagnosed nine years ago?
Sam takes one pill a day, at night. The virus is undetectable in his blood. He has labs drawn and goes to the doctor every three months to make sure his pill is still working. He is still on the lowest dose possible. His doc says he is way more likely to die of prostate cancer than AIDS.
Inject quick political rant:
The cost of Sam’s medicine (if we were paying cash) is about $20K a year. If we ever missed an insurance payment, our company would probably love to drop us like a hot potato. We’d never get another company to insure us. We’d probably move to Canada, honestly.
We are unabashed Obamacare supporters, though I believed in the right of universal healthcare since before the Clintons' tried it.
4.Are you worried about your kids/someone else’s kids getting it?
Nope. HIV is actually a very weak virus outside the body. Our nurse says it lives only about 30 seconds after being exposed to air (unlike the flu virus.) To catch it through casual contact, one would have to press their open bloody wound into an open bloody wound of Sam’s (sorry for that visual). Our doctor says other people are absolutely not at risk. Lastly, we are very, very, very careful.
5.What do your friends/family/neighbors think?
They do not know. We have told only a handful of people that we implicitly trusted could handle it. No one in our family knows, they would be irrationally worried.
Also, Sam is an elementary school teacher and, because of ignorance, we worry he could lose his job. I hope someday, maybe when we retire, we can become activists and get the word out on “binary” couples like us, and the many people successfully living with HIV.