Until today I never knew anyone with H.I.V or AIDS, it was one of those things that you hear about, read about, or see in reports on TV. It was the acronym among numbers and statistics and was as connected to me as missiles or wars in far off places, a reality, but not a reality I have to deal with up close and personal. That was until today.
My friend had known that their behavior was risky, but the risk was part of the territory for their sexuality it would seem. They saved me the details, suffice to say that the sex they were having wasn’t sex I would have. Anonymous faceless stolen sex where the thrill is perhaps in the anonymity and the risk. These weren’t your average one-night stands, they weren’t one-night anythings. They were sexual encounters that were brief enough not to get caught but long enough to regret forever.
“You don’t need details Simon” I was told. “You wouldn’t understand.”
They told me they were having some tests done. Tests that a person in their position would be wise to have once in a while. They were concerned though, worried at the prospect that they had caught something and that something might be terrible. I did what a good friend does, I reassured. “You’ll be fine, everything will be okay.” But really, what did I know, and as comforting as my words tried to be, the truth cannot be cushioned with a lie.
The day of their appointment at the hospital I called them to see how things had gone, sure that while they might have caught something, it wouldn’t be that. They were walking along a busy street and I was driving my car with the roof down, between us the combined traffic noise made it hard to hear one another, but this wasn’t a call I wanted to delay, like them I needed to know.
“I can’t really hear you.” I said “But just answer me one thing. Have you got H.I.V?”
The question was to the point, blunt and without the usual dressing they might have expected from me on such an important matter. Oddly enough I know in this case that such bluntness would have been appreciated.
“Yes,” came their response in an equally as unembellished manner.
No words were exchanged for quite a few seconds after that. We shared traffic noise and nothing more. What do you say at a moment like that? It’s not a moment you rehearse in front of the mirror in your bathroom.
What now? My friend has H.I.V and I have no idea what this means in day to day terms. I have no experience to draw upon. I’m in shock. My friend has H.I.V. Suddenly that acronym means something, it has a face, and the reality has come home to stay.