So, Where is My Prince Charming ? Dating While Living With HIV

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So, Where is My Prince Charming? : Dating  While Living With HIV

With all the media excitement over the engagement and upcoming wedding of Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, I had begun to feel some kind of way, after constantly seeing their pictures plastered all over the tabloids in the checkout line at the supermarket. Standing there with groceries in hand, I began to go to that dark place of self-pity and started to wonder—so, where is my Prince Charming?  But, I had to stop and think, is that a reality for me as an older Black woman living with HIV?  I just have too many realities to consider, first I’m 67 years old, and available men around my age are scarce, plus I have HIV. And if you are a person who is living with HIV, you probably already understand how dating while living with HIV can be difficult.

In spite of the scientific breakthrough of U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable), I still have to face up to reality.  I’m ecstatic that U=U has made me feel better about myself as a person living with HIV.  I no longer feel like I’m a walking biohazard and a danger to anyone, but U=U probably won’t help me to find my Prince Charming. The reality is that most people are still afraid to date someone who has HIV.  Even when the U=U studies prove that an undetectable viral load means you can not transmit HIV, it’s still hard to break old beliefs that some people have about people living with HIV.  The common belief today is that we are still infectious and to be feared. I was disheartened after listening to a Wendy Williams People Poll question on Wendyista blogspot.com. She posed a question, “Would you pursue a relationship with someone who’s HIV-positive?” Ninety-five percent replied no, and five percent said yes, but most of those 5% basically said they would only have a platonic relationship.

Although this Wendy blogspot was posted in 2017, it’s supposed to be a flashback from a previous show from years ago.  I was relieved to know that, but are people today more educated about HIV?  Some people are but others have a long way to go; I discovered that after I recently read quite a few ignorant comments on a Facebook thread.  The question arose about being intimate with a person who has HIV.  The numerous responses ranged from an almost apologetic “hell no” to a graphic, disgusting comment one man wrote, “I would rather put my dick in a meat grinder.”

I understand that most people are still not educated about HIV transmission and even when presented with the correct and updated information, it may take time to change their thinking. And sadly, some people will never change what they believe.

So, because of stigma and ignorance about HIV, I face the reality that my prince may not be on his way, but I’m okay with that. I’m not going to hold my breath waiting, but I will continue living a wonderful, fulfilling life. Also, I have been married twice so I’m not looking for marriage but a companion would be nice. Because honestly it does get a little lonely at times. Oh, and forget online dating, gone are the days of surfing the dating websites; I’ve kissed too many frogs in hopes that they would transform into my prince.

But I still have faith and believe in possibilities ,what would life be without those? I’ve  learned to stand up to the truths and realities of my life with HIV, so that I can live my best life. I know that in order to have real love in my life I have to love myself more. I must stay close to my loving family and supportive friends, practice self-care and love myself like I would want someone to love me.10-Love-Quotes-to-Inspire-You-to-Love-Yourself-First-4

Of course on May 19th 2018, that magical day of the royal nuptials, I’ll be glued to the television.  I’m always happy when two people find each other, fall in love and get married. But, I’ll be just as happy waltzing around the house with myself and singing, “Some Day My Prince Will Come”— because anything is possible!

To learn more about U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable), the
science that states if a person living with HIV is in treatment and maintains an undetectable viral load for 6 months or more then that person cannot transmit HIV. Please visit:https://www.preventionaccess.org

 

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I’m Thankful for Letting Go of Internal Stigma

On Thanksgiving we all think about what we are thankful for. I am so thankful everyday for everything wonderful in my life, from my good health, supportive family and friends, to my kitty rubbing up against me for a little affection. I have a great deal to be grateful for after sixteen years of living well with HIV.  But, when I received this U=U photo yesterday from the person who designed it, it set off a whole new wave of gratitude. I stared at my photo and the message surrounding it and thought, now this is huge, and I give thanks. I am so grateful that I am no longer harboring the internal stigma that years ago would not have allowed me to put such a frame around my picture. I am thankful for U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable) because it has been a boost to my self-esteem and on the worthiness meter my numbers are off the chart! Knowing that I am not a threat to anyone makes me feel somewhat “normal” and helps to let go of the internal stigma, that’s a lot to be thankful for.  U=U is based on science and not fear and explains that if a person living with HIV is in treatment and maintains an undetectable viral load then that person can not transmit HIV. For more information go to: https://www.preventionaccess.org

Over the year or so that I have learned about U=U there have been many who doubted the science of it. A person who works in the HIV field told me that U=U was unreliable information but didn’t have time to look at the prevention access website that I referred. But now that the CDC (Center for Disease Control) is also saying undetectable equals untransmittable, I give thanks. https://www.hivplusmag.com/undetectable/2017/9/27/breaking-cdc-officially-recognizes-undetectableuntransmittable-hiv-prevention

Along with this statement from the CDC  I now have the ammunition that I need to have a conversation with any skeptic of U=U, who more than likely wouldn’t dispute the CDC, like they would me. I also plan to bring up the subject of U=U at my next doctor’s appointment and I feeling more confident to do so.

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I would like to acknowledge and express my gratitude to the following organizations who have also helped me and continue to assist me in adjusting and thriving with living with HIV.

AIDS Law Project of Philadelphia http://www.aidslawpa.org
BEBASHI http://www.bebashi.org
Philadelphia FIGHT https://fight.org
Positive Women’s Network https://www.pwn-usa.org

“In everyone’s life, at some time, our inner fire goes out. It is then burst into flame by an encounter with another human being. We should all be thankful for those people who rekindle the inner spirit.”—Albert Schweitzer

U=U Photo Frame Designs by Zee Strong—Thank you!

 

 

 

Don’t Get It Twisted, Love Shouldn’t Hurt

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Oh the feeling…gazing into each others eyes, butterflies in your stomach, the first person on your mind when you wake up in the morning, and all those other warm fuzzy feelings that people associate with love. Everyone wants to experience love. But remember, whatever your experience is with love, make sure it’s from a place of joy and not pain.

You see, I had it very twisted at one time in my life, I fell for the impostors of love. I mistook, misery and hurt for love. I thought control was love, I thought put-downs was love, I even thought physical abuse was love. I put my blinders on and dated those impostors because of the internal stigma that I harbored. I didn’t think no one would want to date me because I was living with HIV. I accepted the mistreatment and control because I didn’t think I was worthy. Even after being pushed out of a car resulting in bruised ribs and a broken spirit, I contemplating getting back with him. At that point I think my self-esteem was twisted and I didn’t see my value. Thank goodness my friend kept talking to me, “if you get back with him you might as well go to the roof of your house and jump off now.” I remembered the sadness in her eyes. I knew then that I had to do a lot of untwisting of my thoughts. I had to understand that my fear of losing my life should be much greater than my fear of being alone.

As a woman living with HIV, I am not alone in experiencing intimate partner violence. Studies have shown that women living with HIV are twice as likely to experience intimate partner violence and 5 times more likely to experience lifetime sexual assault than women in the general population. These statistics brings about a need for awareness of violence against women living with HIV, especially in October for Domestic Violence Awareness Month. To spread that awareness, October 23rd, 2017 marks the fourth National Day of Action to End Against Violence Women Living with HIV. Why is that important you ask? Because women living with HIV suffer a lifetime of trauma and stress and are more likely to die from violence. https://pwn-usa.org/doa2015/doa2015factsheet/
It’s also important because women living with HIV are demanding that it be important, if we don’t, who will? It’s crucial that all women including women living with HIV no longer suffer or die at the hands of a violent partner. So, in October and every month and everyday, let’s all be more aware and don’t get it twisted love should never….ever hurt!

Quotes from Domestic Violence Survivors http://www.seethetriumph.org

“You are special and deserved to be loved, truly loved.”
“I’m strong as hell now. And no one will ever, ever hurt me again.”
“It’s hard at first…really hard. You may even question if leaving was the right decision. It was the right decision. After the shock, when the fog lifts, things will start to get easier.”

National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-7233

A Well Kept Secret

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Welcome to my blog the Underground Woman, which is the same title as my upcoming book: The Underground Woman: From Prisoner to Freedom. I called myself the underground woman because of the ten years that I hid my HIV status from my family and close friends. I was ashamed of the fact that I had contracted HIV and felt as though people would treat me differently. Fear of societal stigma and discrimination imprisoned me in my own world of self-stigma, a world where I wasn’t living up to my potential as a carefree individual. Free to say what’s on my mind and do what I wanted to do. You see, when you are harboring a secret, you have to be careful of what you do and say to keep your story straight. I couldn’t tell why I had so many doctors appointment. A friend even said, “Wow, are you okay? You go to the doctors a lot.” I panicked as I tried to give her a cover-up answer. Most of my doctor’s appointments, support groups and ASO (AIDS Service Organizations) were in Center City Philadelphia, which meant that I had to catch the subway train. One time I saw a friend on the subway and she asked, “What are you doing on the subway train, don’t you drive?” Again, I panicked as I thought of an excuse. Every time I had to do something that was HIV- related, I always told family and friends that I was going to do something else. I was sneaking, hiding and running away on the subway, and I laughed at myself one day as I rode on the underground train, I thought, do you know who you are?  You are the Underground Woman.

Although, I gathered the strength to free myself from the self-stigma that was holding me back, I can relate to the women and men who are still underground, afraid of their secrets getting out; I hope my story can inspire them. Here is an excerpt from my book, The Underground Woman: From Prisoner to Freedom

“I called myself the underground woman because I was living in an underground world that my friends and most of my family didn’t know anything about. This underground world was my private rabbit hole that I slid down from time to time to connect with people who understood. I was harboring a secret and this underground world was the only place where I felt free to be me and my secret was kept.

So what is your secret? Because everyone has one, a secret lover or affair, a secret bank account your significant other doesn’t know about, secret children born outside of the marriage, or things you did in the past that you’re not particularly proud off. Shhhh!!! Don’t tell anyone—and some people take these secrets to the grave with them. I guess that is what it means to say “having skeletons in the closet.” Can you imagine how damaging it is to your spirit to keep a secret about yourself for years and years? Always being very careful of every little thing you say to your friends and family so that you don’t give away any clues. You have to keep up a lie to uphold your secret. Boy, that’s some heavy pressure! A secret chips away at your spirit and rots your soul, not to mention what it does to your health from the stress. The fewer secrets you have the lighter you feel and the better you feel about yourself. And I really needed to feel better; I needed to feel lighter so that my spirit could be free to soar. It was one secret that I didn’t want to take to my grave. Yes, I had a skeleton in my closet that shocked the hell out of everyone. A living skeleton that kept replicating herself every day, and it was getting so crowded in my closet that the bones were overflowing. And she was starting to get noisy, every time I opened the closet to tell her to be quiet, I had to stuff the bones back in to shut the door, but she wanted to get out. She was tired of being in the closet and keeping her mouth shut. She wanted to tell everyone that I had been holding her hostage, my secret, “my HIV status” in the closet for over ten years. So now my secret is out”.

“If you can’t get rid of that skeleton in your closet, you better teach it to dance.”   George Bernard Shaw

Photo credit: Shawn Theodore (xst)