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A Poem by Michael A. Kehoe

October 20, 2010

Michael A. Kehoe

Michael A. Kehoe

Occasionally, we here at TheBody.com are lucky enough to hear from readers who volunteer to craft their own pieces sharing their stories or thoughts. This is one of those pieces. A version of this piece was also distributed to attendees at this year's United States Conference on AIDS in Orlando, Fla.


I Have HIV

I Have HIV.

Please, do not be afraid to hold me, to hug me, to embrace me -- I will not die and leave you. When the time comes, I will gladly take that part of you given to me on a journey beyond both our wildest dreams -- only to meet you once again and continue our friendship, our love, our embrace. Let our hearts prepare for this journey together -- for when that time comes, know that you will be "the wind beneath my wings."

I Have HIV.

But you would not know it. I walk amongst you, sit down at the table with you; I may even cater to your every desire -- take your order, serve your food or beverage -- entertain your soul with song or your fantasies at the theater. I am no different than you. The air that we breathe and the food that we eat are the same. So, too, is the need to live, to care and to love.

I Have HIV.

You may not know me. I may be homeless -- maybe not by choice, but because family and friends have abandoned me in my greatest time of need for love and understanding. We may cross paths in the street, in the supermarket, at the bank or at the doctor's office. Maybe we sat across from each other in a crowded bar, at our "table for one" or even in a group -- afraid to say hello or even offer to each other a warm smile, a gentle touch.

I Have HIV.

I want to share with you my deepest secret, but I cannot. I am afraid. Afraid of another rejection, of adding distance between us; of you getting up and not returning; perhaps sharing my most intimate conversation with others. I walk home alone, my hands hang still by my side instead of caressing yours; I embrace no one at night except my desire to love and be loved; I yearn deeply to wake up in the morning feeling your warmth in my soul or see the light in your eyes. Instead, I am enveloped in clouds of loneliness -- even in the new dawn's sunlight.

I Have HIV.

I do not ask you to be selfish. But I must be selfish. I will not allow myself to share with you the cause of my isolation, my anxiety and my loneliness. But yet I will be selfless -- I will let you know my deepest feelings and darkest secrets; my strongest desires and my tears of pain, joy and love.

I Have HIV.

Don't worry. I will protect you -- because I will protect me. I will not allow harm to come to you. I will share with you my desires but not my disease; my dreams but not my desolation. I need to be honest with you, so that you will trust me. As I ask you to be by my side as a friend or a lover, so, too, I want to be by your side. I want us to embrace each other's understanding and compassion. I do not want your sympathy -- I only desire your simple touch and heartfelt embrace -- but not your trepidation. Yes, I want to protect you from this stigmatized loneliness. I will be grateful that you have wanted to share a part of your life with me. Why would I want to hurt or harm you -- to take a part of your life from you or others?

I Have HIV. But I want to care for you.
I Have HIV. But I have the desire to live, to touch, and to embrace.
I Have HIV. But I have the ability to love -- and be loved.

I Have HIV. But I need you.

Michael A. Kehoe is an HIV/AIDS advocate living in Sarasota, Fla.




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