Foreword from Josh Robbins, of imstilljosh.com:
I am truly humbled and excited to be able to feature a guest blog, although anonymous, from the guy that unintentionally and unknowingly exposed me to HIV on December 18, 2011.
Since I started this blog and also shared my YouTube video that has good and not-so-nice comments on it, I have wanted to share the story of this brave guy. WHY SHARE HIS STORY, you wonder? After living with HIV for just about two years, the 2nd most common question I encounter is “Do you know who gave it to you?” So, I wanted to humanize this guy a bit, initially so my family would begin to understand that the guy that exposed me to HIV isn’t a monster or a bad fella at all.
The following is written anonymously by a guy that lived in Nashville at the time of my HIV exposure.
I’M THE GUY THAT EXPOSED JOSH ROBBINS TO HIV
It was mid-day and my phone rang. The caller ID read Josh Robbins.
Imagine that feeling you get when you didn’t realize you were going 90mph on the highway and you pass a cop. Doubtful that Josh was calling after weeks for “round 2”, intuition told me that this could not be a good call. I let it go to voicemail. His message was thoughtful, but urgent. I stepped outside to inhale a cigarette before calling him back.
THE PHONE CALL FROM JOSH.
Our conversation was almost too cordial. Josh told me that he’d tested positive for HIV, after having initial HIV symptoms and that I needed to go get tested. He went on to explain that it wouldn’t have been possible for him to contract HIV from anyone else. If it was from me, he said that he didn’t want to harbor any animosity towards me. I think my response must have been similar to if my mother had called at 7AM on a Saturday to tell me to go to the dentist, “Yea… of course I’ll go. Talk to you later”.
I spent the next 29 hours pretending to live my life normally, all the while meticulously observing every moment and every aspect of my life. I’m not sure if I was trying to visualize how it all would be different if I tested positive or if, [subconsciously] knowing the truth already, I was trying to salvage the last hours of a carefree life.
When I finally made it to Nashville CARES, I had envisioned every possible outcome, good and bad. I was mentally prepared for a positive test result. And believe it or not, when it returned positive, it was more of a relief than a blow. I could move forward now. I could take action. I was no longer stuck between knowing and not knowing. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t happy news… but I knew I was going to be OK.
FACE-TO-FACE WITH JOSH
The next night I sat across from Josh in his kitchen. We discussed the night we met, how we thought this would or wouldn’t affect our lives, disclosing to friends, family and future partners. I couldn’t help but think about his bedroom a few feet away, that night, that condom that was a little too tight. This was the scene of the crime!
You might picture a scene where I fall to my knees begging for forgiveness and pledging eternal servitude for my wrongdoing, but Josh would hardly allow me to even apologize. At a time when I could have been comforting him, I was the one actually being uplifted and encouraged.
Unlike Josh, I did not decide to fully disclose my status. Though my parents have always been and would be 100% supportive, I felt that they would only fear for my wellbeing. I have yet to tell them. I work in a hyper-hetero and hyper-masculine industry and do well enough just being out of the closet. I felt it was in my best interest to keep quiet at work as well.
Unfortunately, disclosure, for me, wasn’t just about letting folks know. There were people that needed to know because they needed to be tested. This would be the hardest part of my transition into “Poz-life”. (imstilljosh.com notes that the following examples were allowed to be posted by this guest writer because of the anonymity of the examples, regardless of the future disclosure choice(s) of this writer. Josh does not share any specific information about the HIV status of anyone, respecting personal privacy.)
- A very recent affair, despite our having had safe-sex, was very concerned. He went immediately to the ER and got on PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis). He is HIV negative.
- When I told my friend, he sat quietly and held my hand. He rubbed my thumb and told me it would be OK. It killed me to remind him of that drunken night a few months prior. He is fortunately HIV negative.
- A guy from out of town broke down on the phone when I called. I tried to contact his local suicide prevention agency when he tested positive. Not only was his world changed forever, but he’d also cheated on his partner with me. His, now, ex is HIV negative and I am happy to report that he is doing much better.
In the end, I’ve told my sister, my closest friends and anyone I’ve had or planned to have sex with. A tip to anyone newly positive, don’t wait until 3rd base to disclose… guys don’t like that!
I’m OK with my level of disclosure for the time being. Even being closeted, as it were, I have plenty of opportunity to support those that are questioning their status or are newly HIV-positive. More than once, I’ve held someone’s hand during that unnerving 30 minutes between mouth HIV swab and the result given. I am happy that I can be there, no matter what the result.”
Josh: So, how would you feel if you were exposed to HIV by someone and then had to call them and inform them that they should be tested, as you contracted the virus from them? Could you make that call? Would it be difficult? Why or why not?
This article previously appeared on Josh’s own blog imstilljosh.com here.