I am 28. White. A Female. And a former Peace Corps Volunteer. I am HIV Positive. This is my story of how a few months, a few people, and a few events in Zambia changed me and my life forever. This is the story of how I contracted HIV and brought my Peace Corps Journey to a crashing halt... and how I am working now to pick up and put back together the pieces of my life as a newly diagnosed person living with HIV. This was not the journey I had originally planned... my path has traumatically and dramatically changed... but it is the one I am on now. There is no going back. There is only forward. I welcome you to follow along with me as I attempt to explore this new life ahead of me, whether you are someone from the Peace Corps community, or someone living with HIV. I welcome your comments, questions, suggestions, and opinions. Let us go forward together. To start from the beginning, click here He Gave Me More Than A Bracelet.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

My First Dating Disclosure

I did it!

And I survived.

And he survived.

And it went better than I could have or would have ever anticipated.

So, for all of my planning and preparation and obsession, it finally kind of happened on accident. Well, not on accident, but not as planned either. It turns out that I'm just a little bit too transparent and not at all good at keeping secrets (I know, you all are completely shocked, right?!?!?).

We were of course watching the basketball game at his place. He had just gotten back from a weekend out of town, so we had not seen each other for a few days. We were just laying on the couch catching up and talking about various things. We were having some really good conversation, touching here and there on some more serious topics, taking some risks and sharing things that might not just come up in daily conversations. There was a level of comfort and trust developing there between us and it felt good.

There were a couple of points where I had to avoid a complete answer, promising to give him a better answer "some other night". One of the moments had to do with my ex, because I had mentioned that we were remaining good friends and that there was a "significant reason" for us to remain friends. We had also already had a previous conversation where I could not tell him where/how my ex and I had met, or why we were together (being that my ex and I don't seem like a likely match). This all added up to seem a bit suspicious to him, and he decided that I must have some kind of important secret. He teased me for a minute about my secret, and I kept saying that I would tell him, but not tonight. He asked me if I had a kid that he didn't know about. I laughed and said no. He decided to give up and drop the "secret"... at least for awhile.

Later in our talking, I happened to share that I had a fear of ending up alone. And that made no sense to him, because I was an attractive, intelligent, fun woman, why would I end up alone?!?!? Thus he was reminded of the "secret" again and he figured that it must play a role in this fear of ending up alone.

A couple of minutes later he said he had a question for me, but that I may not like it. He got really nervous and embarrassed and wasn't able to ask it right away.

I asked him "Is your question related to my secret?"
He said "I don't know. It might be or it might not".
Then I asked "Is your question related to sex?"
He said "Yes."

I started panicking inside. I knew what the question was going to be. And I figured that he probably had a good idea of what the answer was going to be. I took a deep breath, snuggled deeper into his chest, and braced myself for what was coming next. I told him to ask his question.

"Do you have any STDs?"

"Yes. And yes that relates to my secret." Breathe. There. It's done. It's started. No going back. There is only forward now. Breathe.

The next couple minutes were hard. I couldn't stop the tears from welling up in my eyes. He didn't say anything. I didn't say anything. We just laid there. The secret was out, but there was so much more to tell. The basketball game was just in the beginning of the 4th quarter. I told him that I was going to talk, but we should wait until the game was over so there would be no distractions. But time was going painfully slow, and it was just too weird, so we eventually decided to talk anyways with the game still on. I told him I had never done this before. I asked him if he was ready.

Then I told him my story, beginning with falling sick in my village, the hospitals and tests, medical evacuation, and then being diagnosed with HIV. I told him about my current health, my numbers, and my medication. I told him about my blog and other advocacy activities I've been involved in. I told him how I met my ex at an HIV conference. I told him he wasn't at any risk from kissing me. I eventually back tracked and told him the story of how I had contracted it in the first place. I told him I had information and literature for him to read, but it was at home, because I hadn't planned for this conversation to happen tonight.

His reaction? It was more of a non-reaction. He didn't really have any questions. He didn't really say much of anything, other than he wasn't completely surprised, as he had started sensing and thinking something along these lines. He said I had made enough references over time to some sort of a secret, that he knew something was going on. He said he would be happy to read whatever information I had for him. He continued to lay there and hold me and hug me and comfort me when I would start to cry a little bit again.

I started to go numb. He was being so nice and comforting. He wasn't freaking out. But the only thing going through my mind was this other blog I had read where the girl was talking about how after she disclosed, the guys would be all nice and comforting and hug her that night, but then never talk to her again after that. So here we are laying there, and he's holding me, and I'm thinking "This is too familiar. He's just being nice. But this is it. I might as well say goodbye now."

So I got up to say goodbye and leave. And then the most amazing thing happened. He pulled me back down on the couch with him so that he could kiss me. And not just a peck. It was a real kiss, and it felt like he meant it.

To be continued...


  1. I can't believe a stupid bot got to write a message in your post before I me (even if his spam content is quite original).

    Anyway, I was looking forward to hear from you, I'm the heterosexual guy recently living with the same predicaments as you. I know it must have been super tough to disclose your condition but you must be super proud that you did it and realized that life goes on. You're a smart, beautiful girl, and I'm pretty sure a great human being. Be proud and happy.
    I'm also young, good looking, smart, and successful, and I'm busy enough at the moment just dealing with myself and how I'll go from here, so I won't be dating or disclosing anything anytime soon.

    Stay strong and keep writing :)

  2. OMG Jessica how amazing! I've been following your blog for over a year now and am truly inspired by your story. Your last post just literally made me shed a tear and I can't wait to hear what will happen next with the new guy. I'm such a hopeless romantic, and even though its hard to find love for even non HIV persons, I know its out there for you because you are such a great person. Im so happy for you and wanted to let you know that you have really helped me and I am sure lots of people break down ignorance and social stigmas. Like the previous post says please keep writing and continuing to be so open and honest.