Sitting here listening to "U + Me (Love Lesson)" by Mary J. Blige, looking over my divorce petition. How did I get here?
A Little Back Story
My husband and I would have been married 13 years on June 17, 2017. No, it wasn't an easy relationship. Of those 12 years, we lived together in the same home for only two and a half years as a married couple. We both battled demons, but after 10 years of having numerous serious relationships with other mates and going through a lot of maturity and work on ourselves, we decided to reconcile.
He had been trying to get back with me for years, but I wasn't ready to trust him again until his last incarceration. I was bringing the kids to see him, and there was a change. There still is. He has turned into a very good man.
Anyway: He knew my status and was impressed how I had kept advocating and educating, never letting HIV be a deterrent to living a good life with a good perspective. So, we were making plans to renew our vows on Feb. 11, 2017. Then, the parole board said he could not return until he took classes and paid fines. OK, we just had to be patient. I traveled to Dallas, Texas, every three weeks to see him.
All of the sudden, he wasn't really interested in sex, and that was never our M.O., so I kept questioning what was wrong. He finally broke down and told me that, even though I had educated him about how HIV undetectable = untransmittable (U=U), his counselors and parole officers said that was not the entire truth, and he was still endangering himself. What if the condom ripped?
Even with my latex allergy and agreeing to try numerous condoms -- anything we needed to do to vanquish his fears -- he kept having anxiety attacks before, during and after sex.
On our last encounter, he wanted to use two condoms, and I agreed -- anything to make it work. Sex was our only obstacle. Through pain and irritation, I still tried after he finished. Because it was terrible for me.
He took off the condoms, rinsed them off and inspected them in the light for any type of tears. He looked at me watching him. I was almost in tears. I explained that in no other relationship since my diagnosis had I ever been made to feel so bad. All he could do was apologize.
Shortly after, he said he couldn't deal with my status and asked for a divorce.
Now, I'm not so delusional as to think that the only reason my marriage ended was that his support team did not understand U=U is scientific and the truth. But, I can say, the message not being delivered to the health care community causes breakdowns in day-to-day interactions that should otherwise have the capacity to be normal relationships with people living with HIV who have battled to achieve an undetectable, untransmittable status.
So, thank you to all the scientists, health care workers, advocates and allies of people living with HIV who help to spread this message with me. It helps me and others like me have hope in healthy future relationships not biased by misinformation, ignorance, fear and stigma. STILL SCREAMING "U=U"!
Alleen King-Carter began her HIV career at the Philadelphia Center in Shreveport, La., and is the founder and CEO of Living in 3-D, which provides HIV education and anti-stigma information throughout the state of Louisiana. She is a state-certified HIV counseling testing specialist, a member of the Louisiana HIV Criminalization Strategic Planning Committee and works with the Louisiana AIDS Action Network, Positive Women's Network - USA, and the Prevention Access Campaign (PAC). Beyond her work addressing HIV, she is an active leader in her church New Inspiration MBC, where she spearheaded a soup kitchen/food pantry and other food programs.