Testing for PrEP, I Found Out I Was HIV Positive

Part of the Series Day One With HIV

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I live in Johannesburg, South Africa. I am a white male.

Years ago I dated an HIV-positive man. He seemed to be in a lot of denial, always worried about me and never about himself. I needed to educate myself, and I wanted to somehow educate him, so I joined this newsletter.

In February this year, I tested positive myself. This was very unexpected.

I had just started dating a guy who lives in Cape Town. Long distance isn't very easy, as many of us know. The new romance blossomed into love fast. He suggested we go on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) together. At first, I was confused and even hurt -- why would he want to do that? We were in an exclusive relationship, and there was no reason for us to do this. Reluctantly, I agreed to do it. Next step: the test.

My sister is a busy doctor and this was a busy Friday afternoon. She quickly and casually signed off on the request for the blood test.

On Monday, I had already forgotten about it. I was in the car with my sister, chatting. She managed to introduce the test into the conversation and then handed me the paper with the result. Shock.

I had tested so many times before and had already been through all the scenarios in my head. After years of negative results, I had in some illogical way convinced myself that I was above this virus. After all, this time the test was just a formality before taking the PrEP step.

My initial thought: Have I infected my long distance beloved? I called immediately and told him about my situation. He, too, was anxiously waiting for his own result.

My sister put me in touch with my current physician on the same day. The doctor called me soon after the car trip had ended. He was very caring and sensitive.

In that telephone conversation, I decided that the best way to deal with the news I had just received was to make a joke about it. I tried to imagine the worst things people could say about me if they knew.

Lack of knowledge. Judgment. Racism. Those were my initial fears. The words that came out of my mouth were harsh and dark, but made me laugh at the time: "I've got AIDS because I am a faggot and I fucked a black guy!" The stigma. The misinformed opinions.

Then came the actual rejection. My beloved broke up with me, but assured me that my status had nothing to do with it. His results were negative.

On day three, I had taken my first pill. Like most, I am now undetectable and doing really well. I have not gone public with my status, but I know I will. I know that stigma must be tackled one opinion at a time, and I have the strength to do so.

Want to share your own "Day One With HIV" story of finding out your diagnosis? Write out your story (1,000 words or fewer, please!), or film a YouTube video, and email it to editor@thebody.com. In the coming months, we'll be posting readers' "Day One" stories here in our HIV/AIDS Resource Center for the Newly Diagnosed. Read other stories in this series.