Viramune, Combivir, viral load, T-cell count, antiviral therapy, protease inhibitors, undetectable....just a few of the words spoken on an early date with my husband.
Doctor, post-exposure prophylaxis, family, pregnant, friends, wedding, future...these words spoken a few months later.
Work, CD4 percentage, lunch, Walgreens, pets, side effects, bills...all words spoken on any given day now.
You'd think my husband and I would talk about his HIV in an in-depth and serious manner, but truth be told, we rarely speak of it. "HIV" is a curse word in our home. If it is uttered, it is accompanied by an inconspicuous full-body cringe. And yet, its always there...like a veiled ghost dancing in our midst.
My husband and I have our individual relationship with his HIV, but its not a threesome. I once heard my husband refer to his HIV as "the HIV monster." I imagine his relationship with HIV is hostile and forced and earnest at the same time. My relationship with HIV has evolved over time...
In the beginning, the HIV was frightening, stifling, and unrelenting. I read everything I could get my hands on about it, but I seemed to always come up with books or articles on "care taking", "health advocating", and "supporting." It was suffocating. The only breath of air came when talking to my husband's doctor. She was my lifeline...so calm and matter of fact about it. She could actually smile and say "HIV" in the same sentence! Could there be a different perspective????
Later, his HIV became the Harley-Riding Bad Boy I obsessed over. I was understanding the disease, the treatments, medical terms, and flurry of information. I could handle disclosure to close friends and family, I could plan a future with him. At last, the highly anticipated exhale. I was breathing on my own, without the doctor. We got married and life with Mistress HIV began.
For the next five or so years, the HIV was a concealed third party in our relationship. I became angry and indifferent. I stopped searching for information, and stopped disclosing to people. I knew she (HIV) was there, just didn't want to deal with her. I became frustrated with my husband for being apathetic. Didn't he know I was dealing with her too?
She became my enemy. She knew the intimate thoughts and fears he wouldn't share with me. She affected his body in ways that I couldn't. She could "out" him if he didn't attend to her. She was IN him and ON him...all the time, everywhere...constant, adamant, incessant.
She keeps him a minuscule latex condom distance away from me.
Slowly, this relationship is changing. Her and I have a new found respect for each other. She's not going anywhere, and I'm not either. We're trying to figure out how this is going to work (a difficult task when you don't talk about it). I use this blog as a way to "out" her, and I'm back to researching and learning. It will be a toilsome and tangled relationship, but as Mistress HIV and I navigate this obligation, there is one thing I am assured of.
She has his body, but I have his heart...and that's one thing she'll never get her hands on.