HIV and Motherhood

I often get asked what it means to be a mother with HIV and honestly, I never knew how to answer that question. I never felt that my HIV had any relevance when it came to my parenting.

I’ve always told the women I meet and mentor that my daughter knows I have a thing called HIV and that I take a pill everyday for it and she accepts that. Well she did up until the other night that’s when she started to ask lots of questions about why I take a pill and what HIV is.

When she was three she asked me what my pill was and I said to stop me from getting poorly. She’d seen other family members like her grandparents take pills regularly so she accepted that explanation. When I did some interviews for radio and TV last year she asked ‘Mummy, what’s HIV?’. I said ‘You know the pill Mummy takes to stop her getting poorly, that’s why, I have HIV and need a pill for it’, that she accepted also.  Now she’s nearly 6 and telling her what I’ve already told her is not enough anymore, she wants more details.

Firstly she asked why I take a pill, to which I replied I have HIV, she asked when will it be gone and I can stop taking the pills. I explained that it doesn’t really work like that and I’d have to take them forever. This is when she started to cry and that’s when I started to think that it would be easier to have not let her know about my HIV. Easier maybe, but not better.

She’s at an age where she’s thinking about life, death, family and her place in the world. In her world she knows that having a virus means that you’re poorly. She wants to know details about HIV but she’s not quite got the comprehension yet to understand the details. Asking questions about where it came from, how did I get it, can children have it etc etc.  We had a cuddle, I explained all I could, showed her all my boxes of medication so she was reassured that I wouldn’t run out and managed to turn it around and we were giggling before bed, but it wasn’t the end of it.

A day or so later she asks my friend to explain to her how people get HIV, I guess my explanation of ‘you wouldn’t quite understand just yet’ wasn’t good enough but my friend said something that really made her accept she won’t know until she’s older. The conversation went like this;

My friend: You know how you can do maths at school?

Daughter: Yes, I can do sums, we did our two times tables this week.

My friend: You know James, (a 2yr old we’re very close with) does he know his two times tables?

Daughter: No he’s too little.

My friend: He’s too young to understand his 2 times tables, isn’t he?

Daughter: Yes.

My friend: Well it’s a bit like that, we could explain to you all about HIV but you’re too little to understand just yet. Just like you could tell James his times tables but there wouldn’t be much point would there?

Daughter: Ok I get it so you could tell me but I wouldn’t understand like James doesn’t understand maths. Are you going to tell me when I can understand? When will that be? when I’m like 10 or 11?

Me: We’ll have to wait and see but I’m guessing around then.

Since that conversation she’s not brought it up again. I’ve noticed she asks me if I have taken my pill a little more often than she used to but that’s all so far.

I’m extremely grateful for my friend who was able to explain things in a way to her that she understood and accepted. It really helped to have things explained in a different way by a different person, calmly and clearly. I admit I was a little emotional trying to explain to her about it all. I didn’t visibly get upset but I went a bit too far along the route of ‘don’t worry’ and ‘mummy is going to be fine’ than thinking about the best way to explain a complicated matter to her. She still doesn’t know how someone gets HIV because she still doesn’t need to know. I will now plan what to say in the future depending on her age.

I have nothing but respect for the mothers and fathers who tell their children about their HIV when they are already old enough to have formed an opinion about what HIV is, that must be very hard. I feel lucky that HIV happened to me when she was so young that me becoming sick from it will not be a part of her memory. It may be hard to explain to her about these things, but I think in the long run I’ll be glad I did it this way.

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Ghost Town

“This town (town) is coming like a ghost town….”

The more I reveal my HIV status to people who I’m interested in dating the more isolated I feel.

I’ve talked often in other posts that I haven’t faced any stigma once I’ve revealed my HIV status to someone but the longer I’m single, the more I face. When I look at it realistically I wasn’t open about it at all when I started dating again. I can only talk about online dating as it’s the only kind I do, I never really meet new single people to ask out in any other circumstances. Let me paint you a picture of how it usually goes. We have a few flirty introductions followed by some typical getting to know each other questions. This is when the conversation takes one of three paths 1) it fizzles into nothing as there was not actually any real connection there. 2) They ask me if I want to fuck. 3) We get on and continue to chat and flirt and exchange numbers.

To be honest its right at the start of a spark with someone I start to think about when I might bring up my HIV. I wholeheartedly wish it didn’t play on my mind like that, because I believe that it shouldn’t matter. I believe that it shouldn’t matter when I tell someone about it, I should do it when I’m damn well fucking ready to. But my experience tells me otherwise. Anyway I digress…

Scenario number two I’d have to say is the most common occurrence, followed by number 1 and very rarely number 3. I’ve been trying something new recently, once numbers have been exchanged and we have arranged a date I’ve been steering the conversation towards my status. It’s not that difficult, I usually bring up work or ask what they like to do in their spare time. In both circumstances so far they’ve always then asked me back and I bring up my HIV work or my volunteering. That’s when I usually tell them. In the one message I say my status, that I’m on medication and undetectable and that being undetectable means I cannot pass it on. I say that I’m telling them because I want them to know about my life and not because I feel under any obligation to. I send a link to an article I did which tells my story and that if they have any questions to please ask me.

So far I’ve always been met with silence. We’d have been having a flowing conversation with almost instant replies then nothing. I leave it for a while then later on or the next day I ask them about it. I still haven’t had anyone be openly rude, I’ve had a few passive-aggressive comments such as “well I’ve always been really really careful” but nothing worse. A few have asked questions, a few just avoid the subject all together, but they all have something in common. They all seem to become incredibly busy after finding out my status. No longer do I get instant replies, I get the double blue tick but no response that or a cursory “yeah” or “lol”.

I have been careful to tell this information after we’ve established we’re looking for more than a hook up and have arranged a date, so I know that they’re actually interested. The date never happens. Like I said, they get really busy. I’ve never actually met up with anyone I’ve told about my HIV when it has been in a dating situation. I usually ask if they still want to meet up and they say yes, but they can’t do the original date we planned, and they’ll let me know when they’re free again. I attempt conversation again over the next week or so but it never goes anywhere. A couple have arranged a date then ghosted me on the evening it it was supposed to take place. Like the title of this post suggests, ghosting is what I receive after I tell someone about my status.

I’m well aware that people get ghosted all the time, I’m not the only one it happens to nor do I think my HIV status should offer me some kind of special treatment. But I suppose my little experiment was testing the waters to see what kind of reaction I’d get. I know I don’t have to tell people about my status but I want to, I want to normalise it, I want to have those conversations with people, to quell some fears maybe lessen some stigma. It’s not in me to hide that part of me to a potential partner. But telling people is so isolating a part of me just wants to keep it quiet for longer so at least I’d get to enjoy a date or two before they ghost me. To be honest I don’t know which is worse, all I know that its pretty shit the way I’ve been doing it currently.

Friends and acquaintances  like to offer their opinions of “better off without them” when I talk about this. I know deep down that it is a good filter, to find out who’s decent. But so far no one is, no one I’ve spoken to is willing to see past it. People who once said things like “you’re lovely”, “I can’t wait to meet” and “We’re going to have a lot of fun”. People who have read the articles and researched what U=U is. People who are smart and educated, people who describe themselves as “open-minded” and “liberal” won’t see past my status.

And I still get so angry. Angry because its not ignorance, its a choice. I’m angry because people are choosing to hold onto their stigmas. Choosing to not accept facts. Choosing to not meet me after revealing my status because they believe that by having HIV somehow makes me not worthy of their time anymore and I’m sick of it. Just sick of explaining myself over and over to only to be rejected as a result of being open.

There’s no nice conclusion here. I’ll let you know when I come to one.

Fodder

The Oxford Living Dictionary defines fodder animal feed such as straw, the second definition is this:  1.1 A person or thing regarded only as material for a specific use.

I’m letting myself be used as fodder. I have I think in the past I’ve even encouraged it with some.

I talk to some men, on various messaging apps, on almost a daily basis, that I don’t really have any other connection to than sex. Either the sex we’re currently having or the sex that we once engaged in. But with a few its gone beyond that and the conversations go far beyond sex. We talk about all sorts. I tell them about my life, when things are going well and when they’re not going well you know, like friends do.

But these people are not friends.

I recently saw one of them ‘irl’. This is someone that I’ve been chatting to for over a year. I got talking to him very soon after me and the ex split. I was generally an emotional wreck back then because of my complete non-coping with work/break-up/single-mum-hood. I ignored that he was married and met him for sex. I won’t meet married or attached people now, I’m quite a stickler for that actually, I find it odd that I even did it in the first place, but I’m getting off topic now. Anyway I saw him in real life with his kids and wife at a big open event in our city. I knew that we wouldn’t be engaging in any conversation, we’d both chatted about our weekend plans and discovered that we were going to the same thing. He looked pretty much the same as I remember. I wanted to talk to him but I didn’t, I definitely don’t want to be a part in anyone’s family drama. But seeing him again made me think about the relationships and attachments  I form with people more closely.

I’ve been let down by people I thought were friends recently. Its left me questioning myself and my choices. I often get told (as I’m sure most people who have good friends) by friends and work colleagues that I’m a wonderful person, a catch some people say. But when it comes down to it, the conversations I have with men always come to the same conclusions. I’m good enough to have sex with or hang with out one on one, inside the house. But I’m not good enough to be seen out in public with, go on a date with or meet their friends etc. I remember there was a Sex in the City episode about it once.

I have some intelligence about me, I know that it says more about their faults than mine that they chose to put me in that box. But that doesn’t change how much it actually hurts. When you’ve had both long term exes tell you in one way or another that they’re ashamed to be seen with you it makes me really wonder why I keep on investing a whole lot more emotion into these relationships than they do.

I’m reminded of my past long term relationships where a lot of problems stemmed from me putting in a lot of effort in the start and being disappointed when that effort was not reciprocated. I thought I was out of that habit, but I’ve continued to do it, but on a more micro scale. Turns out old habits do indeed die hard!

I’ve tried to make a change, I told married guy I wan’t going to be chatting to him anymore, as it was a damaging relationship to me. He said he sees me as a friend, I told him he wasn’t we don’t do anything friends do and he said I had a point. I’ve been chatting to him about everything for over a year. We know a lot about each other on a personal and emotional level, yet he doesn’t trust me enough to tell me his name. Something I used to joke about and now I just find offensive. Please don’t misunderstand this, I have not at all fallen for a married man. I was relying on his company in the form of messaging for companionship.

That’s the main reason I talk to these people, companionship. I have lots of friends, but the majority have partners and children and full time jobs, so when I’m alone in the day because I’ve got no work, or alone in the evening when my daughters in bed, I turn to these men, to make the world seem like a less lonely place. I didn’t think it was doing me any harm, but I’m guilty or relying on them. If i’m not chatting to someone in the evening I tend to get very down. I feel like my time has been wasted.

I decided to cool it with messaging people with both sex and non sex friends with some mixed results. Some I’ve barely spoken to, me not sending out that first conversation starter has effectively ended all conversation between us. Some I’ve spoken to about the same amount but I feel a lot more secure in our relationship now because I’ve discovered that if I do leave it, they will get in touch and that’s a good feeling! I did a similar thing with the friends I used to have from my married days. A few years ago I felt like I was the only one trying to make plans, so I stopped sending that first message. Now I’m just grateful I had made some wonderful friends who are still there and want be around me.

I do feel a sense of loss, I actually miss talking to these people. I also feel frustrated at some (the ones who aren’t married) as to why they’re not contacting me, or if they’re missing me at all, but I guess that’s why I’m doing it, I don’t want to be fodder. Forming these online relationships with people where I have no idea if I mean anything more to them than a distraction is just something I can’t deal with anymore.

I’ve been sat writing this (on and off with other browsing) for just over 2 hours and I’ve not received a single message in that time, not since this afternoon actually! Old me would be sad and searching for someone to chat to by now. The new me won’t be bothered…..current me is somewhere in the middle.

Fighting the good fight.

Does anyone else get the feeling that they’re always second string, the other option, the one someone calls when the actual person/plans that they had have fallen through? I’ve been feeling this lately.

I think that my sudden bouts of insecurity have been fulled by a few different things going on in my life but the main reason is because I’ve getting into arguments about HIV online and facing the overwhelming and massive stigma that still surrounds it.

I’m aware that I live in a bubble full of positive people who own their status and who are up to date with the latest HIV science. However  I didn’t realise just how ignorant and unwilling the rest of the world is to change. Over the past few weeks, taking about HIV with people who are only there the demonise those living with it has opened my eyes. It has made me angry and has made me seek out more stories and discussions to find the discussions to hopefully interject some knowledge into peoples lives. Its been like slamming my head against a brick wall.

The discussions usually follow the same pattern, I start fairly open and basic, usually explaining U=U, can’t pass it on, regular testing, treatment, very few and minor side effects bla bla bla. These are always argued and disputed, very negatively asking me what do I know and how do I prove that. I follow up with a few links to websites, I say I’m living with HIV and work in the sector. At best the responses I get are “well that may be true, but you never know, so I wouldn’t trust anyone who’s got HIV” to being called a slut, that I should “stop taking loads in my ass” (redundant advice at this stage!) and finally by someone who claimed to be a doctor said to me “I can’t believe they let you see HIV patients to spread these lies”. The first time the negative comments came I responded……..boy did I learn my lesson…….I had to stop checking my notifications and actively delete any comments/messages before reading. For every positive comment from someone there were 20 negative ones.

This is damaging. These opinions are harmful. I sought the discussion out but these ignorant people managed to turn someone who was living confidently into someone who was ashamed again, into someone who felt cheated by life and dirty.  People say to me, you shouldn’t let it get to you, they’re ignorant, more fool them. I have great support from my friends and family and from the people I’ve met through my mentoring work,  I have that system in place. So when I have been turned from someone who was happy to speak out to someone who feels like shes not worthy enough to bring herself into the discussion anymore I have them to help bring me back. To help life me up again.

But what about the people who don’t have that? The people who are alone, the people who get lost in the online world of hate and stigma because there own experiences have taught them to hate themselves for whats happened? Where do they go? Many people living with HIV live below the poverty line. I generally only ever hear “positive” positive voices from people who don’t live around here and from people who work in the sector.

I attend a local support group. When I’m there I just want to smile and cheer the room up. I tell funny and sassy stories and about me I tell them about the interviews I do. I think I’m the loud one that always tries to question everything and put a positive spin on things. I do this because out of the attenders I am one of a number I can count on one hand that is open about their status. Most live in shame, isolation and fear. Their families don’t know they’re attending a HIV group, most make up other excuses as to where they are. Some of these have been living with HIV for decades and only told partners or one or two close friends. The stigma and negativity they have received over the years is massive, they feel it can’t be undone. I’m doing everything I possibly can to help, even if its just for an hour, once a week.

Its not enough though. Empowerment through peer support is vital. Public education about HIV needs to happen. Millions of peoples lives could be vastly improved the world over if it was done right.

I have nothing but admiration, great respect and awe for the long term diagnosed who have lived through times when the stigma was far worse, who are still fighting for change, fighting for improvements and for better lives for those living with HIV. I don’t know how you do it, I hope that I find a similar strength to keep going on with it all.

3 years

It doesn’t matter how or when or with whom. I am a strong believer of that. I believe that down to my core. But I do know who and when and how…..

3 years since the first incident of unprotected sex with the person who gave it to me. Literally the day my life changed, for more than one reason. I remember the date quite significantly. It affects me more than my diagnosis date. I’m coping better than last year. I’ve only been close to tears on a couple of occasions. I learnt today that if you’re 100% completely determined to get pissed and not think about what happened then your good friends will support you and stand by you whatever.

This time three years ago I was on cloud nine (see teenage dream), it was a mini heat wave then as well. I can’t really put into words the emotions I’m feeling about it all. I hope that someday in the future this day just passes me by without another thought. But for now I’m glad there is only an hour left of it. I can move on again just like I have every other day.

Time heals all………eventually.

Mixed Up.

Emotionally, I’ve had a mixed weekend. I’ve felt very alone and have been pining for a connection with someone.

I don’t usually play the blame game concerning HIV and my ex boyfriend but this weekend thoughts of “how could he do that to me” have gone around and round. He left me with several medical and personal issues that I have to deal with daily. I’ve been cursing my status, my weight, my depression, my high sex drive. Basically everything, everything that makes up me. I’ve had a lot of anxiety. Anxiety doesn’t usually effect me much overall so I’ve been searching my mind for reasons why I’m feeling like that.

I was in church for a friends baby’s christening. I’ve never been a member of a church but from my point of view I would call this one modern. It’s casual, they’re happy for children to run around and play during songs, they have modern themes and references in their preaching etc. I like singing in public and rarely got the opportunity to do so, so I was singing along to the new modern songs (no ‘all things bright and beautiful’ there!) and generally having a good time.

But me being me I spotted an attractive young man sat on the opposite side of the church, alone, singing and then praying. My mind wondered, as it does. But this time not to all the naughty places it usually does but to what it would be like to spend time with this man, talking to him, getting to know him, cuddling up to him. It’s been a reoccurring theme with me this week since Bi Guy.

I masturbated  the other day with no porn, no filthy scenarios played out in my head but instead thinking about making love to someone, have them over me in missionary position (one I never really do much because of its intimacy) having them looking at my face as they cum and shudder above me. Feeling a proper connection with someone is something I’ve shied away from feeling in my sexual encounters. Because my track record has shown me that when you start to connect, you start to get feelings and that’s when I get hurt, right? I mean its happened every other time I’ve had feelings for someone. My brain is protecting my heart based on the lessons I’ve learnt from past relationships, because when I connect I can’t control my emotions as much.

This all bubbled to the surface in church after the children had left to go and play. It was during one of the worship songs my heart beat increased and I started to cry, overwhelmed with emotion. My friend tried to explain that through my singing and worship, God was speaking back to me. When I don’t believe in any God I find that a hard concept to accept, but if not that then what? What made me react like that?

I think it was singing about love, unchanging, no matter what happens, love. Something that I’m yearning to receive from a partner. I experience love everyday, through my daughter, my friends and family. But I want that different kind of love a love shared in mutual attraction and from wanting them to be present in my life and me in theirs, always. Love where I can be open, share things about myself and have them still be there.

So far I haven’t been able to share my status and interest in sex with anyone and have them want a relationship with me. I stand by that I’ve never had a upfront negative response to me sharing my status. But neither have I had acceptance into a new relationship. Now I know that healthy relationships take time and it’s very possible that I haven’t met anyone simply because I’ve not met anyone compatible. 18 months is not that long being single. But will this fear ever go? The fear that if I reveal all of myself to someone they will simply run away? The difference between me now and me 3 years ago is that 3 years ago, before I met my ex boyfriend I was willing to change myself and hide bits of myself to suit someone else, because I needed someone else to function properly, to not be lonely. Whereas now I’m not willing to, I want someone to take me as I am. But it seems impossible, it seems like an impossible task when every man I meet/ talk to manages to mention their dicks or how horny they’ve been within the first hour of conversation. Sorry, I didn’t mean this to turn into a man bashing post!

Anyway I digress, the attractive man left as soon as the service finished and I doubt I’ll see him again. But I must say it was nice to see a man who was an obvious gym bunny (he had all the muscles!) interested and passionate about something other than himself. I’m trying not to over generalise, of course people who love the gym have other interests and are not all self absorbed but unfortunately not many I’ve met to or what is portrayed in the media.

I’ve had a hard week both physically and mentally. I’m hoping for a brighter week, in all areas, next week.

The Front Man.

During my relationship with D we used to chat to other men online this was solely to try and arrange threesomes, but developed into just chatting and exchanging pictures and videos. This is how I met The Front man.

The front man is a young man who’s in a band. He is completely the type pf man I easily fall for. He is good looking, he knows it but is not too engrossed in himself. He is hard working and sees no shame in working hard at whatever it is to achieve. He exudes confidence, something that I so often look for in a man as I myself used to lack confidence in so many ways. He was funny, friendly, flirty and seemed to be extremely attracted to me. We chatted on and off for months, meeting only once in a non-sexual circumstance. I did manage to sneak a naughty kiss though and I enjoyed feeling him go hard as we made out, even though it was brief.

The front man is kinky and loves sex. He is very good. I once told him that he fucks like an older, experienced man but with the stamina of someone his age. A lovely combination. He is also an old romantic at heart. We have this in common. I enjoyed that he had a foot fetish, I liked sending him pictures of my feet as a side note I’ve always liked my feet and thought that were quite pretty! It felt good to have someone else enjoy them.

It didn’t look like we were going to meet up. I’d put him out of my mind but then he’d send me a cheeky picture and I’d want him all over again. I often call him a tease. When we did meet he told me he loves the compliments and attention I give him and I said vice versa.

Fate was on my side one evening when we were both free. We had both been out in town separately and messaging, then he asked to come over. After all the build up I became nervous, something that doesn’t usually happen and ran around tidying up and preparing.

The second he walked in he was so complimentary; he couldn’t keep his hands of me. This made me a bit overwhelmed and shy. He took my clothes off in the kitchen and just stared and played with my breasts and ass through a patterned lace/fishnet style mini dress I had on under my normal clothes. He was a bit drunk, I was also, I made him toast because he said he needed it for the night.

We went upstairs and we had a really fun, sexy time. The front man has a beautiful cock. Thick, big but not too big that it becomes hard to play with. He told me a lot that night that girls his age are not like me (there is an 7 year age difference between us) that he cannot talk openly about sex and his interests with them. For example he had some fluff on his dick when he took his boxers off so without saying anything I just got a baby wipe to clean it off. That small act he was amazed by, saying that would’ve embarrassed younger girls. I suppose I understand. When I was younger, because of my own insecurities I would’ve been embarrassed to bring it up. As it would mean telling them they had some fault (not matter how minor that was) leaving you open to rejection.  I loved to play with his body and tease him.

That night contained a lot of firsts for him and one first for me (I had never given a foot job before then). Between the sex and foreplay we sat and chatted about everything, my past, his past.  He showed me his favourite porn and I talked about my likes and dislikes.

But that wasn’t the best time with him. The best was the second time. Both being sober just made the whole experience better. The second time was unusual. I had told him I was going on a date the night before and I was nervous and he sent me the sweetest message describing how awesome I was to give me a confidence boost. I think (whether it was known or unknown to him) he liked the idea that he had more control over my body than the person I was with the night before. And to tell the truth, he did.

I would describe the second time as mind-blowing. The kind of sex when you think back on it, it makes your tummy flip and your pussy throb. I’ve met the front man a few times over the past year, there was a gap in the middle where he started seeing someone and they’ve all been a lot of fun. So far, hes never let me down.

The sad part of being with the front man is that in no way does he see me as having any potential as someone to date. He’s met someone new again and says that when they become “official” he’ll stop meeting other women. He talks about the other girls hes seeing or fucking when he comes over, it used to piss me off a bit, that I was so far removed from his life he’d never consider me as a partner. Now it doesn’t bother me, I’ve learnt to not want him and hardly message him at all now.

I know that we wouldn’t have really been compatible. He’s younger, hes very busy and he now lives in a different city. He had no desire to become a step-dad although he did say my daughter was the cutest (she totally is!). To be honest I don’t know what I envisaged our relationship to be. Originally I was just expecting a fuck but when I met him he was so nice I fell for him a little bit and wanted more. Did I want the full on exclusivity? Not really. I just wanted to spend more time with him; I wanted to be the first one he called if he was horny.

During that first night I schooled him about HIV. I did not admit that I had it, I didn’t have the confidence to talk about it back then. STD’s came up in conversation and I explained to him what undetectable was and how living with HIV was different to what most people thought about it. I didn’t think I’d see him again once he started dating the first woman so never did tell him. Now, I dunno, when is the right time? I very rarely see him, should I tell him and potentially stop that once every couple of months amazing sex session I really enjoy because of his preconceived notions about HIV? A part of me says I should, a bigger parts says that there is no point when there is no transmission risk involved.

I wonder how he’d feel if he knew. I think he would fall under the category of “wouldn’t have touched me with a barge pole” I’d told him beforehand, but I don’t really know as we’re not very close. I hope that since talking to me about HIV he has a different opinion of it. I also hope that if he found out I’m HIV positive from seeing some of the public stuff I do he wouldn’t freak out or be angry. But you never know how people will react.

We still exchange messages occasionally and hey, if his band gets famous I can say when he’s on TV. I slept with that guy….. 🙂