My name is Ken and I am HIV-positive. So many people cringe when I introduce myself like this during a one-on-one interaction, a seminar presentation, a conference or get-together but as a rule, I never say this on my dates with potential partners. I will tell you why but first, here is my story.
When I was about five, my daddy took me to a barber’s shop to have a haircut. The queue was quite long on that day and daddy stepped out to buy me sweets in a shop down the road. By the time he got back, the barber’s apprentice had already cut my hair. He was grateful for that and tipped him in excess of 500 naira.
A week later when it was my younger brother’s turn to have a haircut, we went to the same barber’s shop and because there weren’t many customers, it soon got to his turn. I watched the barber burn the blade of the clipper with a lighter and apply methylated spirit before starting to cut my brother’s overgrown hair.
I tapped daddy on his knees and blurted out that Uncle (in reference to the barber’s apprentice) didn’t do that before cutting mine and I watched him go berserk. He pulled my little brother down from the chair and repeatedly slapped the apprentice, asking as he did, if he knew what that meant.
The barber didn’t flinch and it appeared that he knew about his boy’s tricks. Daddy stopped hitting the poor boy when he created a scene and his hands began to hurt. After all, what’s done is done and it was illogical crying over spilled milk.
He drove us straight to the hospital where our results came out negative but we were asked to check back in three months for confirmation. Those were the scariest months of my life. I often wondered what it all meant? Daddy was not one to easily express his emotions but on one of those days, I recall him crying during our night prayers and pleading with God to save me. Well, his prayer was not answered.
I have been religiously compliant with my medications and still have no symptoms of HIV infections despite staying off it for most part of my junior secondary education, because my friends asked too many questions which I didn’t have the right answers to.
I began the advocacy for abolishing the stigmatization of HIV/AIDS patients in my first year at the university and that was why I repeatedly introduced myself as a HIV patient. I wasn’t proud of the disease but I was determined not to be ruined by it.
After my graduation, I continued this at my workplace ant it somehow earned me the respect of my colleagues, excluding the ladies whose company I desperately needed. None of them would date me but they enjoying eating my food and spending my money. It wasn’t long before I painfully realized that no woman would associate with, let alone date someone like me.
Years rolled by and my parents started demanding to see their grandchildren and I, with my PhD, a house and a Rolls Royce wasn’t getting any younger. I desperately craved the touch of a woman. A good woman. If I wanted just any woman, I would have easily picked one from the bar or among my female students who shamelessly threw their bodies at me.
So, I set to work. After months of searching, I found her in a mall shopping for what I would later know was her wedding. The engagement ring already put me off but I was determined to give it a trial. Maybe she would leave her guy for me if I impressed her. So, I walked up to her, told her my name and ask if I could assist in pushing her shopping cart.
‘What beautiful goddess shops alone?’ I asked knowing it would break her walls. She chuckled and keep walking. I persisted and she eventually let me pay her bills. I took it as a sign that I needed to apply just a little more pressure and she would cave in. I requested for her number when we got to her car and she looked at me biting her glossy lips and smiled shyly and gave me her card. I thanked her and promised to call the following day. I waited for her to drive off before walking to my car.
Few meters away from my car, I broke into a wild dance because I was overjoyed. I felt like one who won the American lottery! She was worth the chase. I called her two nights later and from the excitement in her voice, I could tell that she had been expecting my call. We talked for hours until my neck hurt, I moved from the bedroom to the kitchen and back to the sitting room while we told each other stories of our lives.
One day, I summoned the courage to ask for a date and she replied that her wedding was only two weeks away. When I asked why she didn’t say so earlier, she answered that she thought I knew. I saw my entire life crumble like a pack of cards and cried like I had never done before. We didn’t talk for a whole day and I promise you, I don’t remember how I got through that day still alive.
The next morning, she asked for my address which I forwarded to her cellphone immediately. Goodness gracious! She was going to pay me a visit! I waited the whole day but there was no sign of her. Later that evening, I called mummy and pleaded with her to pray with me and she joyfully did. She thought I was seeking a promotion at the office and gave me her blessings but my heart was entangled with a damsel due to tie the knot in a few days.
I went to bed that night half a man. I knew what I set myself up for when I went after her and silently wished her fiancé would die in his sleep or have an accident. It is not in my nature to wish someone dead but desperate times breed desperate measures. I might have murdered him if I got a chance to. I wanted her badly. For those days, I totally forgot who I was -a HIV patient- and I wanted to feel that way forever.
She got married to her heartthrob and up until this day, eight years later, she still clouds my thoughts and I wonder if she will ever be mine. Wait a minute! I just heard my phone beep. Just before I check its content, I want to ask if you will marry me if you knew my status? I will be right back. With love, Ken.