It Applies to ALL of Us
By Enrique Franco
February 24, 2010
My partner, spouse and love, Devin, once imposed upon me a deep thought. I cannot remember how the conversation came about, but it did. I do remember that it was while we were driving somewhere in Tucson. You know, those little comments you throw at one another to help pass the time. Well, he was driving and we were talking and then there was a short silence. After a few seconds had passed, he comes at me with a comment: "You probably are only with me because I have HIV too. You probably would've never given me the time of day in other circumstances, huh?"
Without hesitation, I quipped with "That's totally not true babe. When I first met you, I was automatically attracted to you. I would've talked to you if we were to meet at a bar and not have HIV." And that was pretty much it. The subject just went away. Maybe it left as far as us openly speaking about it. But, it planted itself inside my mind and started festering.
You know, a lot of different thoughts come to our minds when we first find out that we have become infected with HIV. I cannot speak for anyone else's but my own first thought. For me, it was What do I need to do to fight this thing? How am I going to defeat it? For Devin it was Oh my God, HOW am I ever going to find true love now? Who can I have or find in my life knowing I have HIV?
His initial thought is a compelling one. Just as much as that comment he said to me. So, I stopped for a while and asked myself, how did we come to be?
Many of us out there living with HIV/AIDS might ask that question. Will I ever find love? My answer is very simple, YES. Love still applies to us. It is a part of life. And the last time I checked, LIFE still applies to us. Having HIV/AIDS does not mean the end of ANYTHING. My HIV may have taken my health, or at least compromised it. But, it has not taken my spirit. HIV has not taken away my hope and dreams. It has not stolen my heart. Quite the opposite now, it has given me a gift.
Before I had HIV I would meet a guy. We would go out for a time and do all of the things a happy, fresh couple does. Catch a movie, eat out together, or just relax at the house and spend time alone. And it was fun, at the beginning. Then, for me, it would just fizz out. I guess we both would get sick of each other or just bored. We'd do our goodbyes, I would cry for a few days. Then it was on to the next relationship. My relationships never quite lasted because they weren't genuine or deep.
The same could be said about some of the "friends" I hung out with. Going to clubs, getting drunk and having a good time. Blowing money on stupid stuff and all the rest. They would come and go, in and out of my life like a revolving door. Of course I understood what it was all about, I'm a big boy. But that all changed after I got HIV.
I was given a genuine gift of getting to know who my true partner could be and who my true friends are. For the friends part, when I tell someone I have HIV, one of two things happen. I hardly, or NEVER, hear from them again. Or, we still continue to hang out and spend time. But the hanging-out time shifts to something more special. Something more heartwarming and genuine. I can truthfully say today that the people I have in my life are my true friends.
Now, the same can be applied to my relationship with Devin. YES, we act like any other couple acts, with the spats and disagreements. But it is different for me. For once, I feel truly loved and I return that love to him. The added plus is that we both have HIV. He understands me and I understand him. Regardless of having HIV, we just mesh. Now, is it possible for someone who is negative to be in love with someone with HIV? Again I will say YES.
If you have a partner that stuck with you when you told him you had HIV and sticks with you through ALL of the drama and the little spats, well then my friend, you have found true love. If he decided to toss you aside some time after you told him, then he wasn't worth a dime in your pocket. So, yeah I believe in my heart that although it sometimes sucks to have HIV, we have a special gift. These people that are able to look past the HIV/AIDS are the ones I want around. They are the same group of people who can look past the homosexuality. They can look past other people's stigmas that are thrown upon us. They look past what they might have been raised to believe about us.
We men and women living with HIV have a gift. We get to weed out the bad apples from the good ones. And when we keep the good ones, boy do we receive the full blessings. In our partners, we can have serious, meaningful conversations. The words I exchange with Devin have a different tone to them. We sometimes share stories of how we lived prior to being diagnosed. When one of us gets sick, we know what needs to get done to treat it. Sometimes when I feel I have been wronged and I think it was because of my being gay, he listens.
Our families have a greater appreciation for the love we share. I can see it in my mom's eyes. I can feel it in my in-laws' home. This love I have the privilege of having in my life I wouldn't give up for anything. And I can thank ALL of those past relationships I was in. I can thank all of the issues I put myself in. I can even thank the HIV that runs through my body. It has changed me and it has influenced those around me. Most importantly, it led me to Devin.
I cannot say God hasn't played a role in all of this. But I do put Him aside of the HIV. I brought that on myself. After getting though, I can say God, like so many others, has not given up on me. I in turn will not give up on myself, the things that I love and the people that I care for. That includes you guys that are reading this and that correspond with me.
If you are the one out there asking yourself if you will ever find love or be in love, do not worry. It is possible and very relevant to you. It WILL happen for you. People fall in love with each other because of each other. If that special person comes around and loves you for you, that person's the one. If you have friends that love you for being you, they are your friends. Remember, you are still a human being. You are beautiful and you are relevant. Your love matters. Your life matters.
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A Brighter Vision
The U.S. military's "don't ask, don't tell" policy got Enrique Franco kicked out of the Army. It also, oddly, was the reason he found out he was HIV positive.
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