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?"
Enrique and Devin
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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Comment by: Luis
Wed., Mar. 31, 2010 at 9:00 pm EDT
Thank you for putting a smile on my face, some days are easier and others hard. Although, in the end the good hearted ones will love you forever:)
Comment by: Shadow
Tue., Mar. 16, 2010 at 6:17 am EDT
I readied your letter and after reading your letter it hit home with me .
I have been Hiv/Aid's now about 14yrs, diagnose with 49 T-cell .. but now my T-cell's are up to 1,127 and vale load under 50.
It's taken me almost 14 yrs get my health back under control, but been in and out of the hospital so many time I lost account.
I agree having Hiv/Aid's has made a big chance in my life .. as founding who was my true friend's was and out of all my friend' I kept one true friend and we are still close with each other today.
I call her my loving angel because she stayed beside my side through my illness and still there.
They say you get one shot in life with true love sometime or some people get lucky and found another true love again.
I am a true believer because I am one of those people that got another chance founding love again.
I have found another love and we be together 13 yrs and still going strong as every, hell we even moved across many states and moved back where we started from and now buying a house together.
Together we can do anything we want as a team ... together there is no stopping use living life to the fullness make each other dream come true for the both of us.
I would not trade my life / world or my new family member's that we had built together.
I look at having Hiv/Aid's is a new begin from the old life you leave behind ..
The funny thing about this is now I look back on my old life and I can see that I never lost nothing but gotten somewhat a little more richer in love, happiness and somewhat peace with our life being together now than I had before.
I know one thing that I have learned from all this what I have be through living with Hiv/Aid's .. Life is worth fighting for and holding on to what you believe in ... it's what you want to make out of what is dealt to you.
Take a long hard looking in a mirror and ask your
Comment by: Patrick Ferguson
Thu., Mar. 11, 2010 at 3:54 pm EST
Great article, very inspiring.
It could not be better said.
Comment by: Kirk
Wed., Mar. 3, 2010 at 10:24 pm EST
Thank you for the lasting encouragement you have brought to me, being an HIV+ man, who has asked those questions. Yes, I needed to hear your story. Sometimes I do wonder am I still worth it. The answer is "yes".
By the way, you matter as well.
Comment by: Thomas D.
Tue., Mar. 2, 2010 at 11:57 am EST
Forgive me for seeming negative. If you read carefully I am not being negative at all. Questioning yes, but not negative. I understand that you, being his partner you would know Enrique more than anyone else. My point is that there is a lot of self-loathing in our community and sometimes it helps to examine those feelings.
I apologize if I have offended you, and it's only natural that you would want to defend your partner. I have a partner as well and would probably defend him. But my statement is not an accusation, it is an invitation for Enrique to continue his introspection, but to be sure that he is being honest with himself. I think that's a legitimate statement.
If he is opening himself by writing this blog, I can only say that everyone's opinion, and their not always going to be exactly what you may want to hear, but nonetheless should be acknowledged.
I have been a HIV counselor in the Latino and other communities for many years, and have sat and listened to people who openly express themselves in one way, but when we dig down deep, we find the anger, the disappointment, sadness, and yes the shame. I am not judging Enrique, and encourage his journey. But again having a differing opinion, is not an criticism, but contrarily an invitation to an open and clear discussion about an issues that affects in many imperceptible ways, especially in the minority communities. I like to read between the lines, and sometimes I question what people say. I mean no harm.
You are right, I don't know Enrique, but I find his blog interesting, and many find him inspiring. But he does write about himself and his experience, so my reactions are going to be about what he writes about - himself. To put it plainly, I feel that Enrique may be holding some shame, guilt and regret for becoming positive. I may be wrong, but there is no harm in my expressing my opinion. I hope this helps.
Comment by: Phoenix
Tue., Mar. 2, 2010 at 9:44 am EST
Great article Enrique, and also thanks Fogcityjohn for your post on the loss of sex. Both articles are providing great discussion amongst my friends (both poz and neg) on Facebook.
I've been guilty of narrowing my love possibilities to only someone else who shares my serostatus (poz), but I'm finding that it's an unnecessary self-imposed limitation (but one that I don't necessarily disagree with). My past bf and I were both poz, and we both agreed how wonderful it was to have a partner who understood HIV, the occasional bouts of fatigue, etc. His last bf was neg and use to chide him for always being fatigued and not feeling like going out and doing things with him. But now I'm wondering if disqualifying someone from my life because they are hiv neg is still necessary?
Comment by: Stig
Tue., Mar. 2, 2010 at 5:10 am EST
Enrique, there is a lot of truth in what you have written. Particularly I like the bit where you say that if your partner sticks with you despite your having HIV then you have found true love. That is so true. If that happens you have found someone with a brain, someone who is not shallow, someone with some depth. The only thing that I don't like about your post, and one of the Comments that have been posted since, is the reference to a "God". There is no God. There is only us. And we have to pat ourselves on the back for the way we deal with this virus, not God. No God would inflict the suffering of HIV and AIDS on millions of people all over the world. So, once again, thanks for writing, just get rid of the superstition. It actually doesn't help. Regards to you, Stig.
Comment by: Odie
Mon., Mar. 1, 2010 at 8:35 pm EST
Enrique, first i will say i started reading your blogs cause i think you are a cutie (no disrespect to Devin), but the whole military thing i understood. i was in army reserve there was a major inmy unit that got kicked out cause he was POZ. it spread like wild fire. anyway i found out i was POZ and was able to avoid getting physical for 2yrs til i got out.
anyway you are right there is love out there for even us POZzers especially when we stop spiritaully killing ourselves and LIVE. GOD made some one for us all. yes we are all beautiful, relevant, love and our life matters.
thank you for being strong enough to share your life so others can live.
may that GOD light continue to shine through You and Devin...cutie (sorry Devin LOL)
Comment by: fogcityjohn
(San Francisco, CA)
Wed., Feb. 24, 2010 at 10:30 pm EST
As someone who finds himself doubting that he will ever find love, I appreciate your encouraging words. In my recent blog post ("Soloist"), I explored some of the reasons for my doubts. Despite my doubts, I still allow myself to remain open to the possibility of real love. As you say, HIV has not stolen my heart. Now let's just hope some wonderful man does.
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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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