By Khafre Abif
March 22, 2012
This blog entry was written as part of the Write a Letter to HIV campaign. Find out how you can be part of this campaign, and write your own letter to HIV.
We were first introduced through our social network in 1989. I did not have enough information about you nor was I consciously connecting to my sexual behavior with my sexual identity. You traveled with your friend syphilis looking for any opening to attack and you both crashed the party. Your friend syphilis became noticeable while you went about your work without detection.
I found you hiding in 1991 when I went to get tested because I wanted to ask my girlfriend to marry me. I wanted to be responsible because I had unprotected sex with both men and women during the 1980s. You knew that I didn't believe that I was at risk because the men that I had sex with also had girlfriends. I think you knew that I was a perfect target because of the combination of denial, shame and internalized homophobia that was at work in my spirit and mind.
That combination continued well after I shared with the woman I wanted to marry. She said yes and we married and had a healthy son. My wife did not become infected nor did my son and I bet you were disappointed. That was a great victory for me; however you still had your hold on me. That combination I mentioned earlier kept me from sharing my status with my MaDear, sisters or even my best friend. Over the next five years I slipped further and further down a rabbit hole of darkness. My depression was severe internally as I wore a mask and poured all I had into raising my son and accomplished many things in my chosen profession.
In 1995, I am sure you thought you had me when I made up my mind to take a new position in New Jersey leaving my children's librarian post with the District of Columbia Public Library. My thought was that I would take my wife home to her native state and to her family so that I could die. That is a far as those thoughts went as my GOD had something else planned for me.
Shortly after starting my new job, finding a place for my family to live and a school for my son I joined my first support group. The chains of isolation began to loosen and it was not long before I shared my status with my MaDear. We shared the news with my sisters and my MaDear shared it with women in her life that would pray and support us both. The support group provided a way out of that deadly combination and up the rabbit hole I emerged. Beginning to attend national conferences, reading and researching to fill myself with the information I would need to live.
When I finally decided to begin taking medication, I began with 21 pills a day. It was not easy to perform as a professional librarian, primary care-giver to my son, committee work on Community Planning, and national library committees. You see, HIV, when the will to live became stronger than the will to let go I saw a way to defeat you.
There have been many continuous struggles that I had to face and overcome. After I told on you, I didn't have to face those struggles alone. I recognized that you thrive, live and have power in fear and isolation. Once that was broken I have been able to live and now take only one medication to fight your presence in my body.
Now these 23 years later, I have witnessed one son graduate from high school and enter college as a 6'8" basketball player with all the intellect and more that I poured into him. I have another child who stands 6'3" and gained early acceptance into Georgia State University neuroscience program for the Fall of 2012. I am remarried to a woman that absolutely loves me for me and sees me the same way that my GOD sees me. I am walking in the purpose that my GOD has for me and why He has kept me for His glory.
HIV, I share the life I have with others and free people to share with me. This work opens the door for healthy discussion, disclosure, seeking care and treatment for other who are infected by you. When Cycle for Freedom meets its mission, and Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens: Prayers, Poems & Affirmation for People Living with HIV/AIDS reaches the hands of those who need a word that will lift their spirit and break the yoke of isolation, we will continue to LIVE. Then my GOD will have another assignment for me, His child.
You see HIV, according to my wife, it won't be you that takes my life, it will be her.
Khafre K. Abif, AIDS activist, has been thriving with HIV for more than 20 years and is a father of two teenage boys. Khafre is the Founder/Executive Director of Cycle for Freedom. Khafre is one of five men in the inaugural class of The HEALTH (Health Executive Approaches to Leadership and Training in HIV) Seminar Program developed by My Brother's Keeper, Inc. He has also served as the Community Co-Chair for the New Jersey HIV Prevention Community Planning Group. As a librarian in his first career, Khafre was the first recipient of the Black Caucus of the American Library Association (BCALA)'s Dr. John C. Tyson Emerging Leader Award. Forthcoming books include Raising Kazembe and Cornbread, Fish & Collard Greens: Prayers, Poems and Affirmation for People Living with HIV/AIDS.
Subscribe to Khafre's Blog:
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