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Saturday 24 December 2005
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Sticks and stones may break my bones

Dear Diary

Someone I knew well died from fear of embarrassment the other day, and I am consumed with guilt for letting it happen.

I could have prolonged his life, but acted late because I was too busy protecting my own secret about also living with HIV.

Justin and I met about four years ago and we immediately took a liking to each other. Not in that way, but as brothers. After all, we were both part of a minority group that is made up of gay men and women across the globe.

If anything, we were drawn towards each other because there really is strength in numbers. And in a place like the community of Ennerdale, south of Johannesburg, being gay takes all the strength and support one can find.

I moved to Ennerdale not long after my diagnosis because it seemed like an ideal environment for me to deal with my HIV: nobody knew me or even suspected that I was gay. I thought the people there were too poor and hungry and unemployed to be concerned with my sexuality.

But Ennerdale, where Justin was born and raised, was not very different to the community of Wentworth, in Durban, where I was born and raised.

I had first-hand experience of how similar the two places were when I was seen in public with Justin and a few others I had become acquainted with. Nasty comments were passed, but nothing that I hadn't heard before.

The remarks were usually thrown our way by heterosexual males who I assumed were so secure in their relationships with the opposite sex, that what boys did with other boys in bed would be of little interest to them.

Wentworth had also dished out its fair share of scathing remarks by straight men who believed that oral sex with another man did not constitute homosexuality.

I was much younger then and have forgotten most of what was said at the time. Besides, it was always something about faggots going straight to hell, or God made Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve, or loud shouts in public about homos being arsi-vores and cocki-vores. And that was just an appetiser.

Nothing prepared me for what now in Ennerdale appeared to be a completely new assault on gays. It had gone beyond name-calling. I was punched in the mouth once and told that the only way to get rid of HIV/AIDS was to burn faggots to the ground.

So when an ex-boyfriend made known to Justin at a party that I was HIV-positive, it just seemed right for me to lie when Justin confronted me about it.

I told him that my ex was just bitter because I had broken off my relationship with him.

Justin believed me because I appeared too healthy to be HIV-positive. People still go on physical appearances when it comes to HIV and AIDS, even using it as a basis for deciding whether or not to use condoms during sex.

No harm done, I thought. And I would soon kiss Ennerdale goodbye and never have to worry about being degraded in public, based on the assumption that all gays had AIDS and were responsible for killing off 'man'-kind. We were not even seen as 'real' men.

I realise now what a great deal of harm I actually did by not telling Justin the truth. I hogged all the information and advise I had collected since I was diagnosed, and quietly went on dealing with my HIV in secret, instead of sharing the simple rules of HIV/AIDS survival with him.

Justin will be laid to rest next week at a cemetery in the very community that helped him decide it was better to die scared and alone of "natural causes". I will never really know whether the truth could have made a difference when he asked me about my HIV.

But as long as that guilt and the 'what ifs' remain, I know that I can use it as encouragement to be strong and let other people know that I am HIV-positive, and that it is not a death sentence: because outside of the Ennerdales and the Wentworths, people are beginning to accept that HIV/AIDS is everyone's plague.

And whether you are an arsi-vore, a cocki-vore, a prostitute, a drug addict, a lesbian; whether you are poor, or unemployed, are hungry, a mother, or a father, a doctor, a nurse, a priest and even an educator of small children; we are all vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and need to get through it together by offering a helping hand, despite our fear of embarrassment.

Forever Positive

Hayden Horner

Previous Entry :: All Diary Entries :: Next Entry
Diary Entries
Beyond the Borders of HIV/AIDS Treatment Strategies
HIV/AIDS Feminisation: A new wine in an old bottle
Antiretrovirals - The Wind Beneath My Wings
The Mis-education of HIV/AIDS Clinicians
HIV Prevention 101: Ignoring the Church's views on condoms
Stigma and HIV/AIDS: lethal bedfellows
In remembrance of our women and children
Maids, madams and the "terrible thing"
Internet love and inter-related HIV-prejudice
Previously eyes-wide-shut on HIV and religion
Love, lies and disclosure
Black pot and blacker kettle
Things better left unsaid on the bus
Food for thought while waiting to die
Test results not all good
Diary speaks back
The truth about disclosure
Dangerous myths and damaged angels

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