Nearly a decade ago, I fell in love with a boy who fell in love with me. We met our families, and we began discussing marriage. He wanted us to wait until marriage to do the do, but I wasn’t about that life. Mba oh! Too many stories of impotency and wives who never orgasm with their husbands, I didn’t want any of that for myself. I was by far more concerned us being sexually compatible. We even didn’t talk about testing for STDs, until we were well into the wedding planning stage. That’s when I insisted we should both test for HIV.
Not to trivialise the importance of sexual compatibility, of course. But I don’t imagine there are a lot of people who, if presented with the options: STD with amazing sex or STD-free but meh sex, and they’d jump at the former. Then again, when you’re young and in love, you feel invincible. You don’t imagine anything bad will happen to you. It is later, when the fog is lifted from your eyes, you go… ‘mehn what was I thinking back then?’
Now I wonder, what if he had tested positive? Would I have continued with the wedding? I probably would have – because I truly believe he’s a very special person – but there would have required drastic lifestyle changes. Say I was negative, while he’s positive, our sex life will be revolved around making sure he doesn’t infect me; that we can get pregnant without acquiring the virus from him, and then ensuring even if I do, that I don’t pass it on to our child. It’s a lifelong commitment, and understandably not everyone feels up to it.
I am pretty sure there many more people who will appreciate the opportunity to have to make the decision for themselves. I personally know couples that got married, knowing one of them was HIV positive. So it isn’t true that nobody will want you if you are living with HIV. Although I imagine that for a moment, when they first found out the status of their loved one, it may have felt like serious sand sand being poured into their garri. They may have even temporarily reconsidered the relationship, before deciding to go ahead regardless. This way, at least, they wouldn’t be the man I read about the other day, who filed for divorce on the grounds that his wife knew she was positive all along, but refused to disclose it. She may have been diligently taking her medications, and therefore not infectious. Yet, it’s probably the betrayal of trust was what did it for him. I mean, that’s a huge thing to hide from your partner.
I believe people have the right to know if the person they are sleeping with or about to sleep with has HIV. Although the massive HIV campaign has increase people’s awareness of it, it isn’t just HIV. It is all the STDs – because they love to coexist together. It is such that if a person has one STD, s/he needs to worry about having others. So yes, people need to know what they are getting themselves into, so they can decide if it is a path they’d want to like to walk down or not. However, a lot of people aren’t likely going to go supplying such information. Duh…unless you ask for it. So, ask.
Asking of course doesn’t take care of everything. Some people genuinely don’t know what it is that they have or don’t have. They probably are waiting to start peeing blood or have severe abdominal pains before they’d ever test themselves. Meanwhile, many STDs will quietly reside in your body without symptoms, so you can go for years thinking all is well. Meanwhile, they are doing serious damage to you, and you don’t even know it. So while asking is great, we all need to go a step further to really protect ourselves. We have to start screening ourselves for STDs more. And if you’re thinking, ‘but if I wear a condom, I’m good.’ Ehhh, not exactly. Take for example syphilis or the HPV-related STDs genital warts; you can get these through skin contact of areas not typically covered by condoms.
In closing, please don’t do like I did. Don’t wait till much later to screen yourself and your partner. It really should be the first step to take once you’ve made up your mind to have sex with someone. While I was lucky and it worked out well, not everyone is.
Earlier in the year, a few of my friends sponsored 6 boxes of Slide Safe. 5 of these boxes have been claimed and delivered. There’s still a box left, and I’d like to give it out to a random commenter. The person will only need to pay the cost for delivery (note that I only use ACE for deliveries outside Lagos). This box of Slide Safe contains singular use HIV, Hepatitis B and Syphilis test kits. They are rapid diagnostic tests, meaning you get the result within 15 minutes. It uses blood sample from your fingertips, so it’s pretty easy to use. The box also contains one water-based lubricant and two condoms (you get to choose if you want male or female condoms, or a mix). The box is discretely packaged, so as not to attract attention, so you don’t have to worry about anyone seeing what is being delivered to you.
If you’d like this box of Slide Safe, please indicate in your comment.
Photo Credit: Kouassi Gilbert Ambeu | Dreamstime.com