He lives in Abuja…I stay in Lagos. We met on a generic gay dating site. He had an elusive profile and I had a picture of my bum on mine. The first thing I noticed was his age: 38. Older men have always appealed to me; (my first boyfriend was 45) and so we exchanged numbers and began chatting.
Our conversations were sexual, I would send him a picture of my bum in the middle of the day often unawares while he was at work, and he would send me one of his dick later that evening (which didn’t look too impressive to me). I should mention he was cute, in a cartoony way; He reminded me of Chicken Little. He was also married.
He had an ass fetish, and liked his men a bit on the chubby side, and so my pictures sent him on edge. He would literally call me at odd hours and go on and on about them. He had a nice Hausa accent, so I didn’t mind.
One day he told me he was in Lagos and wanted me to spend the night with him. It was a rainy night and was quite late. He was leaving for Abuja the following day, we had been chatting for a while now and had talked ourselves up to a frenzied anticipation. And so I went, in a taxi he would be paying for, apprehensive but expectant. The road was free, the night crisp and clear, the air cool and humid.
I arrived at the hotel where he was spending the night, he looked a lot like his pictures, except I noticed he was much slimmer and looked tired , probably stress from work, I thought.
The moment we got into the hotel room, it was on. He was very acrobatic, and slightly sadistic. And of course there was a huge mirror directly beside the bed, which made things even more interesting. Round after round we went till I was completely exhausted and so sore I had to beg him to stop. He went clubbing later in the night and I was left alone in the cool hotel room.
And then it hit me. What had I done? I had had sex with a man without protection! Bareback, as they say. I shrugged the feeling off and went to sleep. The next morning we had it again. This time it was even more intense and savage and yet again without protection.
I arrived home later that morning. The distant thought having bareback sex with someone I barely knew, on my mind.
The following morning, I woke up feeling tremendously tired. I had had a good eight hour sleep, yet I felt fatigued. Odd! But I thought nothing of it, and proceeded with the activities of the day, yawning stretching and taking naps in between.
The following day I still felt tired and sleepy. What was going on? Could it be? HIV? I shrugged off the thought as being silly, but every now and then that voice would pop up and announce that after all, I had unprotected receptive anal intercourse which carries the highest sexual risk of contracting HIV. So I did what the average youth of today does: I googled.
Being the avid reader that I am, I went through scores and scores of materials on HIV, my body still fatigued and lethargic. What I read scared me.
I read that HIV has three distinct phases: An acute (which means short) infection phase. A latent stage and then the third and final stage: Full blown AIDS.
I read that the acute stage starts about 2-4weeks after infection and typically consists of flu like symptoms. The most common of which is a fever, sore throat and a distinct rash. At first this put me at ease, I wasn’t having any of those and it was too early to have any symptoms really. My fatigue was probably due to the intense and acrobatic intercourse of the day before. So I forgot all about it and went ahead with life and soon a day after, my fatigue wore off.
Then all hell broke loose
Exactly two weeks after, what started as a small sneeze became a horrible cold. I had a painful cough, profuse runny nose and a sore throat. I panicked. Who gets a cold in the middle of a blinding heat wave?
Off to the internet I went, I read viciously again. I learned that the clinically term for symptoms associated with acute HIV is Seroconversion. Seroconversion is a process where your body produces a large amount of anti bodies to defend its self against the massive influx of HIV in your bloodstream, your body reacts adversely to the large amount of anti bodies produced and hence the symptoms.
Was I seroconverting? I prowled through the internet, my face flushed in panic, my mood irritable. The voices in my head were filled with I-Told-You-Sos.
But then I learnt that seroconversion didn’t consist of any respiratory symptoms at all and were more specifically ‘Mononucleosis’ in nature. What is mono? Mononucleosis is a viral infection whose symptoms are to a large extent verbatim to acute HIV symptoms.
Ok so maybe I wasn’t seroconverting and maybe I was just overreacting. And as my symptoms wore off, I forgot about everything. I was healthy. I was fine.
A week after, I started having these piercing joint pain that came just when I was lying in bed. I had it extensively. In all parts of my joints. The pain was sporadic, short and piercing but when it came it left me puzzled and worried. Where was it coming from? What was happening?
And then began what I would term the Days of Depression.
At first I thought the pains would go but they didn’t, every night just before I went to sleep they would come, sporadic as always. Some nights I couldn’t even sleep. I Googled, and I found that the medical term for what I was experiencing is called Arthralgia. To my horror I also read that unexplained and often chronic Arthralgia is a symptom of 5% of people living with HIV. This one fact affected me profoundly.
As the days went by, the joint pains persisted and were unrelenting. My mind was a labyrinth of thoughts. I had read that seroconversion symptoms typically only lasted for a week; it had been well over a week so maybe whatever I was experiencing wasn’t HIV related?
The voices in my head were cruel and mocking. I would literally stay awake going over and over and over again everything I had read on HIV. It seemed the more I read, the more terrified I became.
Soon my thoughts began to get the best part of me. If I had a slight headache or a cough, I attributed it to HIV. If I heard someone had a fever, my first thought became HIV. I became a hypochondriac. I couldn’t go for a blood test till after 3 months, when the window period was over and a more accurate result was guaranteed. So all I did was wait. The voices in my head were out to ensure I was dead before those 3 months were over.
One day, plagued with anxiety and on the verge of depression, I woke to feel intense pain in my mouth. The side of my jaw was swollen and to my horror, just beneath the side of my jaw was a swollen and tender lymph node (google those). I had read that continous and persistent swollen lymph nodes were almost synonymous with HIV infection. That was the height!
I called my best friend crying…in sheer panic, I was inconsolable. I also messaged Him (by him I mean the Abuja guy). He assured me he was fine and I was being dramatic and as soon as the three months was over I should get tested and I’ll be fine.
A trip to the dentist’s revealed I had Pericoronitis, which is an infection of the surrounding gums and jaw caused by an impacted wisdom tooth; I was given some antibiotics.
Relief came albeit short-lived. When the pain and swellings subsided, even my joints didn’t ache anymore. But the demons in my head were having a field day. They put into my mind that my symptoms were not mere coincidences but they were in fact HIV related and I believed them; and so I went into full scale clinical depression. I think I was truly depressed for the first time in my life.
I stopped eating, and would stay in my room all day, sometimes I cried, I thought about dying a lot. I gave my life to Christ over and over again. The joint pains stopped, yet I remained unconvinced that they were not HIV related. I prayed, I made several promises to God (one included deleting a vast folder on my laptop containing gigabytes worth of gay porn). I kept a close eye on my calendar, monitoring the days till it was exactly 3 months and maybe a few days.
I joined a HIV forum, and read stories, some of them down right depressing about living with HIV, I realised how foolish it was for me to have bareback sex in the first place. I also realized how dangerous it really is especially for bottoms.
Finally the 3 month wait was over and I so I went to a clinic, had my blood taken and was told to come back later that evening to check the results. I was going to be tested for two types of HIV (yes, they are two strains of the virus) HIV-1 which is the common kind, very deadly and virulent, and HIV-2 which is less virulent and more common in West Africa. I spent that day like it was my last, I was much nicer to everyone, I prayed a lot and sang praises, I arranged my room, ran errands, cooked dinner for the family and waited in dread for the result.
And finally the results came out.
I was Negative!
It felt like I had won the lottery. I felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. But mostly I was mad at myself for believing the voices in my head and willing myself to depression. I also felt like I had been given a second chance. I promised myself never to do bareback again. Regardless of who I was shagging. One is better safe than sorry as they say.
So please as we shag and go from lover of lover and bed to bed, let us use a rubber and be safe!
ENDNOTE: The issue of the chronic joint pain I was experiencing (Arthralgia) is something that I am still on the edge about. However I have a family history of Arthritis, so maybe this might explain why I had them all of a sudden. Although chronic Arthralgia is a fairly common ailment of people living with HIV, it typically afflicts individuals within the 30-50 age group with symptoms ranging from being severe to extremely severe. My althralgia symptoms were anything but severe, at most they were uncomfortable and have since abated.
Also I should mention that there are no symptoms of HIV when it is in its latent stage, which on average lasts between 5-10 years. However there are a few hints that should suggest that something is wrong:
-Persistent and generalized swelling of lymph nodes. These nodes are all over the body but gather in clusters in your neck, your armpits and your groin. The ones in the neck can be felt (if you press hard enough) and tend to swell more often. HIV causes generalized lymph node swelling, not just in one area but extensively. Generalized and hard swollen lymph nodes are always a bad sign.
Secondly, complaints of recurrent respiratory tract infections (e.g. sinusitis, pharyngitis, and otitis media), is an often overlooked sign that could suggest latent HIV.
Written by Chizzie