PERSONAL ROLE MODEL STORIES

THE FOLLOWING STORIES ARE PERSONAL STORIES FROM COLLEGE STUDENTS AT THREE UNIVERSITIES IN GREENE COUNTY OHIO WHO AGREED TO SHARE THEIR STORIES SO OTHER STUDENTS COULD LEARN FROM THEIR EXPERIENCES AND TAKE ACTION TO PRACTICE SAFER SEX AND PREVENT HIV.

THEIR STORIES THEIR WORDS

I was so scared and nervous about testing for HIV that I put it off for 2 years. I even went twice to HIV testing sites but walked away each time. I kept hearing about HIV and seeing commer-cials about HIV on BET. I had been sexually active and knew in the back of my mind that I should get an HIV test.

Then I found out a guy I knew tested positive for HIV. He was really mad about it and said he would infect girls with it. Thatís when HIV really hit home. This guy was my age and black like me. I was still scared but knew I had to get tested.

I was back at college for the fall semester and found out that there was free HIV testing at Stu-dent Health Services. I figured this was the right time; I went to get tested and the woman do-ing the testing was so nice and reassured me that I would be okay either way the test came out.

My test was negative, I was so happy and relieved but I knew I really had to start protecting myself from ever getting HIV. I knew I had to start using condoms every time I had sex. It was hard to start using condoms after having sex without them. It took me a little while to feel comfortable asking a guy to use a condom. In the beginning, I had a few slip ups where I had sex without condoms, especially when I was partying & drinking. Now I keep my own supply of condoms, use them consistently, and Iíve learned to be more assertive with guys. The stress of worrying about HIV or other STDs just isnít worth it. For me, insisting that my male sex partners use condoms allows me to feel in control and take care of my own health.


ONLY YOU CAN PROTECT YOURSELF

In our community we are uncomfortable talking about sex and there are too many myths about HIV. I always tell people before you judge do your own research on the disease. Iím sharing my story so you can know how to remain HIV negative.

I knew what to do. My mom was a doctor and my cousin had died from AIDS complications. Sure I was afraid, there were always documentaries about HIV, the message was the same; HIV/AIDS kills you. There were no positive stories of people living long lives. For me, HIV/AIDS was the face of suffering and death. But, that didnít stop me.

I started having sex at thirteen. By the time I was a freshman, I had had multiple gonorrhea infections. I was with multiple sex partners. My friends told me I was young, dumb, and full of cum. My mom was terrified, she told me her biggest fear was that I would get HIV and die. That hurt, I promised her I would change and for awhile I did but my condom use was inconsistent. I had lots of partners, I mean guys love sex, they want to have it, and if a regular partner wasnít around I would find someone else. I made a lot of excuses for my-self. Things began to change the last time I got gonorrhea. I started to grow out of sleeping around. I was still sleeping with multiple people but less than before. Soon I found a guy and I got my first boyfriend. Things were serious but I had to get back to school and being away from him, I suddenly found myself with two semi primary partners, one at home and one at school.

The second semester of my freshman year I started noticing some weird things with my health. One day while going to the caf, I saw the Step Up team offering free HIV tests for students on campus and I decided to get tested. I was a little nervous to get my results and even joked about it with the tester. She reassured me and let me know they would be there to help regardless of the result.

After I got my positive diagnosis it took awhile to get to a place where I always use condoms and to be hon-est sometimes my partners and I slip up. Thereís one thing I know; nobody could have protected me from HIV but myself. It is your responsibility to use condoms. Tell your partner if theyíre not going to use a con-dom that you are not going to have sex with them. I know it is not easy and you will probably slip up too. It helps to have a good support system but you need to know that you can remain negative with consistent condom use. For me, it is important that I always disclose my HIV status early, before we catch feelings. It is important that they know my status and it is important to me to know that they know my status. If you choose to go raw you should be in a monogamous relationships, but even then you should test together and each person needs to commit to keep each other safe.

But then again, do your own research.


I was so nervous about getting my first HIV test. I did not want to have HIV nor could I stand the thought that I could have HIV and give it to someone else because I didnít know my status.

I was worried because I had had sex without condoms with a guy who had been with someone who was HIV positive. I re-gretting having sex without a condom but I had been drink-ing that night and was intoxicated and didnít make the right choices. I felt so stupid that I had done yet.

I finally went ahead and got tested and I was HIV negative. I felt so relieved. Now I had to work hard on protecting my health and always using condoms. No one was going to pro-tect me; I had to do it for myself. I learned to communicate with my sex partners up front before sex about using con-doms. If there is no condom I just choose not to have sex.

Men who have sex with men are at highest risk for HIV infec-tion in the U.S. Knowing that gives me all the more reason to protect myself. I can still enjoy myself and have fun and use condoms. I also make sure to get routine testing for HIV. I get a test every 3-6 months. I plan to keep testing and plan to ďrap it upĒ (use condoms) all the time.


I started having sex when I was sixteen. I knew about HIV and I took it seriously. Whenever I would meet up with someone I would ask them about condoms before we took off our clothes. If they didn't have condoms, I always had some. I did my best to say it wasn't going to happen without condoms. When I was 21, I went to this ice breaker at another university in the area and met this guy. He seemed really nice. We talked for about four months before I agreed to have sex with him. He would put the condom on, but I could tell he didn't want to use them, and somehow they always broke. I always had extra. The third time we had sex, he slipped it off. A little while later, we stopped talking and he essentially disappeared.

Months later I started getting really sick, the doctor's initially told me I had mono, but when the symptoms didn't go away my doctor ran a rapid test but said it was inconclusive. They took blood and told me I would have to wait a few weeks for my results. After my doctor told me I was HIV positive, I didn't cry but I definitely had times where I felt like I would have a mental breakdown. We had discussed our HIV statuses, and he told me he was negative. I tested regularly and hadn't had sex with anyone in over a year. I knew what to do to prevent it. Condoms are over 90% effective, if you use them correctly. I wouldn't have thrown him away, but he didn't even give me a chance. I feel like he took my choice away. I feel like he lied to me, but I don't even know if he had really ever been tested. I'm not out about my status. I wish I could tell people, I just don't want them to treat me differently, and with all the misinformation out there about HIV, I feel like I have to keep it to myself. I wish I could tell my family, like my mom. But, I know she thinks of it as the 'gay' disease, and I still haven't even told her that I'm gay.

Things are better now, a lot better. My viral load is under control and my health is good. I'm going to continue to take my medication. HIV is part of my life, but I don't think about it. Life makes me keep going, and that makes me feel better. Thinking about my future, my biggest problem isn't HIV, it's figuring out what to do after graduation!

Even though I'm gay, I want normal things like a partner, a house, and a family. I'm not sexu-ally active right now, I'm waiting for something serious. But if I do find a partner we will talk about my status before we have sex. If he's negative, we'll talk about how he can stay nega-tive. Prevention medications are improving. There's PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis), a daily pill which can help reduce the risk of infection when you know your partner is positive. And condoms aren't hard, you just have to have them available. You have to plan for the unex-pected.

Don't be afraid to protect yourself from HIV. Use condoms and talk to your doctor about whether or not medicines like PrEP are right for your situation. Don't be afraid to not have sex, take it seriously. Know that if you do get HIV it's not the end. Don't give up, keep going!


The first time I got tested for HIV; I was so relieved to know my status. I started thinking about getting an HIV test back in high school after hearing & seeing information about HIV everywhere; from TV, radio, school, family & friends. What really got my atten-tion was the statistics of new HIV infections among African Ameri-cans. I had had unprotected sex a couple of times and started think-ing about my personal risky sex behaviors.

I didnít get tested for HIV until college. One day I saw an announce-ment for an HIV testing event so I went to check it out. It was crowded. I knew the HIV test results would be confidential but peo-ple still knew I was there for testing. However, at the end of the day the decision to test was mine and taking care of my own health was my own business and I really didnít care what other people might think.

I went through with testing and when the counselor told me I was HIV negative; I was so happy and relieved. I get tested on a regular basis now. It is easy to get tested; I donít have the same fear I used to. Iíve also become a lot safer about sex and using condoms all the time. I always want my HIV test to come back negative.