Antiretroviral medications, or ARVs - the miracle cocktail of pills that could save your life, aren’t without their faults. The problems are widely reported and often discussed – nausea, diarrhoea, lipodystrophy. Even the occasional perk of a nightly high/lucid-dreaming-state, which can get relentlessly tiresome after a while.
It’s the ‘take’ part to the pills that ‘give’ so much. With all that raining on the parade, when I was cautioned (I’m sure he meant to reassure, but this was not the assurance I was looking for at the time) by the supplier of my antiretroviral medications that my libido would rise from the dead - I took it with a generous dollop of sodium chloride.
I mean, come on, after my 2-month-long-stint in a hospital bed, having only been diagnosed mere weeks prior, my sex drive was the last thing on my mind. The only commuting I had in mind was to ride to the nearest retirement home, to spend my days in solitude. I was, in all honesty, all prepped for relegating myself to a life of chastity.
A few months later, my CD4 levels crept back to normal territory, and had my sex drive in tow. Foretold words of caution reared itself, the hard way. As most would feel with a prophecy fulfilled against their own expectations, due to what seemed like insurmountable odds, I was actually surprised.
Surprise also came with a friend, worry. The whirlwind that was my diagnosis and the quick succession of events that followed and that had left me really sexless for over half a year was as fresh as my sex life was rotten. The concern however, was not so much as “could I” since junior was quite obviously eager to go, but “should I?”
I tended to avoid men during this transitional period. That included not seeking out and turning away men who would come onto me. Admittedly, while I avoided the individual man, I found no wrong in frequenting clubs or bars where there were throngs of them (I was never really into groups anyway). I never actually said I would go so far as to deny myself from lookin, and, I thought, sleeping with them in my mind is the safest way anyway.
You know the saying, ‘avoiding is better than meeting a dick face on?’ Probably not, since I made it up, but it was something I found myself thinking a lot. I’ve gone this long without schlong, so as long as I avoid the dong, I should stay strong and get along. Unfortunately, I was dead wrong.
Egged on in part by the visual stimuli, my thoughts began to often gravitate to sex. Of course, I was too proud to admit this to my friends, who I thought saw me as some kind of walking miracle. The sexual megalomaniac – humbled. I figured they mistook my forced suppression for humility, as did I.
So in secret, I relented and started frequenting Grindr. The first hook-up came quick. So quick, I didn’t even see him come. No, really, he didn’t. I had backed out of my first romp faster than I hopped into it. In apprehension and guilt, my conscience was a mess. It was torn between satisfying my mortality and my morality.
I called a friend that night, and confided in tears my confusion. He assured me, as long as there was a condom, I can hump like an Energizer Bunny for all he cared. He did not expect me to become a saint after my diagnosis. I suspect, neither did my medications.
Slowly, I opened up
my legs and came to accept that intercourse can still be had guilt free, with proper precautions of course.
Fate, being ever so funny, would have it that the first person I would have all-out proper sex with would be the same person whom I now suspect knowingly infected me. I figured, if I’m too nice (or find him too sexually irresistible) to tell him to go to hell for the hell he’s put me through, then what the hell. But I’ll save this for another story......