Like many of us, she grew up watching Disney fairy tales, always believing that her prince would come along one day. And from the day she laid eyes on David (not his real name), she believed that day had come. She loved everything about him: his walk, his talk… his scent. Prior to meeting this man, Marvelyn had never before been tested for HIV and was largely ignorant about the virus itself. Her discovery that she had the virus came while she was at the hospital for non-HIV related pneumonia. Upon being told by the doctor that she was HIV positive, she describes herself as feeling empty, simply because she didn’t know what it was or what the total life changing ramifications of this diagnosis would create. Marvelyn didn’t care to listen to any information provided about HIV prevention because she didn’t feel it applied to her. Because of her lack of understanding of the virus or the stigma attached to it, she told her family and friends and her boyfriend.
David broke up with her because he didn’t want anyone to know his positive status, and word spread about her positive status through her community and her church. At home she was forced to eat off paper plates and use plastic utensils; at church, she found judgment and scorn. Experiencing complete ostracism from her friends, she eventually dropped out of school.
What do you think, as women, we value most about life? The support and love of our families, socializing with our friends and the feeling of connectedness with our communities, correct? Have you ever asked yourself, if you were robbed of these three critical components of our identities, would life even be worth living? Who would care about the new Christian Louboutin’s we just copped, or the law degree we’d achieved or that we’d just lost our job due to downsizing? How would your faith hold up, knowing that your church–an institution that is supposed to embody the notion of the importance of social cohesion and that we are all equal under the eyes of God–has branded you an outsider and created a perceptible wall of dismissiveness between you and everyone else?
These circumstances became Marvelyn’s reality. And although she has turned a negative, life-changing experience into her own positive circumstances, what she’s had to endure is nothing she would wish on anyone. The eight pills with the nauseating side affects that she has to take every night in order to sustain her health is something she hopes you don’t have to deal with.
So the next time the “unsexy” subject of comparing sexual health status between you and a perspective partner arises, ask yourself the following questions: How much does your life mean to you? Does the concept of trust in your mate outweigh your sense of personal responsibility and self-government?
Traversing through relationships and dating these days is already like a mine field without the slippery slope of hasty or poor decision-making becoming complete self-compromise in response to another’s discomfort or objection. As women, we are the givers and nurturer’s of life, and we’re succumbing to illnesses and diseases brought on by poor choices and lazy attitudes. As it relates to our health and well-being, the only constant is this: the choice is yours.