I remember the first time I heard about the mysterious and deadly new disease that was thought to affect only homosexual men. There were reports of how it could be spread through any kind of physical contact and killed the infected person within a matter of months, if not days.
I was 18 years old at the time, and sat with a couple of my close friends in my small bedroom to discuss this plague.
A number of concerns came up that night. Making do with what little information we had available to us about AIDS, my friends and I tried to determine whether we were susceptible to what we thought could possibly be a man-made virus to eradicate all gays.
After much discussion and the weak assurance that we lived in deepest, darkest Africa and there was only one known case of AIDS on the other side of the globe, we eventually tackled the question playing on all our minds. What would you do if you found out you were infected?
As if being homosexual and closeted wasn't difficult enough, how would you cope with being immediately outed by a disease that only kills gay men?
My immediate reaction was that I would very quickly, and in the most painless way, take my own life. I remember one of my buddies asking: "So, what form of suicide would you use?"
For whatever reason, maybe even just to lighten the mood, I said I would definitely take lots of tablets because I always wanted an open casket and had to look my best.
We all laughed together. How could we have known, how could anyone have known, that this was to become the deadliest and most talked about virus in human history?
Nobody ever suspected that this plague would claim the lives of more Africans than any other group of people on earth.
The subject never came up again, but with so few facts about the disease, we all kept the fear of what we thought was inevitable infection in the back of our minds.
It's been 12 years since our first AIDS meeting, conducted in secrecy and in such hushed tones.
I am now 30 years old and have been HIV-positive for close on six years. Out of fear and ignorance, I promised to take my own life if I ever became infected. So why then am I still here? Maybe because when I was diagnosed, all I found myself wanting, more than any other time in my life, was to live for as long as I could. No matter what.
"Nature alters circumstances." William Golding in his book 'Lord of the Flies' used that line to describe how the fear of the unknown can be a powerful force, which can turn you either to insight or hysteria.
But with all the resources available to us now to tackle the global HIV/AIDS pandemic, it is safe to say that hysteria is something that should take a back seat.
Golding's words have become my guide for dealing with my virus and has helped me to help numerous other people deal with theirs.