by Lexi King
I decided to profile a lesser talked about subject for this month’s print: HIV. For anonymity, the interviewee’s name has been changed to Austin.
Lexi: You’re a student at Wright State, you’re a high school teacher, we just had class together and I never knew you had HIV. That blows my mind. How’d you phrase it, “Poz and proud,” right? What does that mean?
Austin: “Poz and proud.” It sucks. It doesn’t mean I’m proud I have it, just of how I handle it.
L: When did you find out that you’re HIV positive?
A: December of 2008.
L: How did you find out you were positive? Just a regular STD test or did you get sick?
A: Well, I was in the hospital with pneumonia. I didn’t even know I had HIV until it wouldn’t react to the normal drugs. Pneumocystis Pneumonia is what its called. It only affects people with HIV and AIDS. I thought I was going to die.
L: Do you know how you contracted HIV?
A: My douchebag ex. He was a theater major at OSU. We weren’t together anymore when I found out. But it’s funny actually, he didn’t even tell me.
L: Switching gears here, how do you feel about awareness for HIV in the 21st century?
A: Over the past 10 years, it has definitely failed. Younger people just don’t care. A lot of people that have it don’t care.
L: Which do you think is more prevalent as a problem, dirty needles or unprotected sex?
A: Sex. Definitely sex. Needles are really bad though.
L: Do you ever worry that you’ll give someone HIV?
A: It’s forefront. It scares the shit out of me. My number one fear.
L: So then, you tell potential boyfriends that you’re HIV positive?
A: I dated a guy once and didn’t tell him for three weeks. I didn’t want to scare him away. That backfired and then I tried to make it as public as possible on dating profiles and such. Now, I tell a guy upfront and if he isn’t okay with that, we can both walk away.
L: Do you think becoming HIV positive hurt your relationships?
A: My parents and family were extremely supportive. It’s really the only thing that got me through that first year, but trying to date someone who is HIV positive is hard for me.
L: That’s funny. Aren’t there dating websites for people with HIV though?
A: There are. POZ is a big one. Unfortunately for an area like Dayton it’s still a taboo. In Columbus and Cleveland, there are large communities that really support it.
L: Have you ever found support through Wright State?
A: I tried to join Rainbow Alliance when I was a freshman and first came here. They all looked at me like I was wearing a black robe and carrying a scythe.
L: Finally, what’s your biggest related peeve?
A: Clean. If somebody asks me if I’m clean. I have to live healthier and be more proactive than people without HIV. Most people have never been checked. I don’t want to get someone’s herpes or gonorrhea.
Wright State University frequently hosts Greene County’s free HIV testing and counseling. The next two testings are November 25th and December 2nd.