When I found out I was HIV positive, I was in a long distance relationship with this white, American MIT architect grad who was beautiful, loving, practical, and brave. We had been together for three years before he moved to Mumbai, which had somewhat severed our relationship, and so much was being done from both of us to rekindle it. It was then that the news of my HIV status came down on me like a guillotine.
I took a flight to meet him over a weekend. I had thought of a million ways of breaking this news to him. I still remember how his hazel eyes were fixed on mine, his lips half parted in a smile. I knew how this news would devastate him. I could not even begin to imagine how this news would impact my relationship with my dirty-blond haired man.
I came back to Ahmedabad without telling him anything. I felt it was better to nip this newly-rekindled relationship in the bud—and I did. He didn’t know why I distanced myself from him for quite some time. By the time he did, he had already moved on. He still doesn’t know I felt I wasn’t worthy of his (or anybody’s) love.
I was ‘permanently damaged goods’.
I was HIV+ now.
I would never find love.
But I was still a charmer. I still had guys telling me that they really ‘liked’ me. There were a few men who wanted to take me out on a date, or get to know me better. But I shut them out. I gave up on the idea of love altogether. I decided it wasn’t even worth trying to find love.
Since then, I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to many HIV+ men in the past year. All of them face difficulty finding love, not because they are unworthy of love, but because they feel they are unworthy of love. Like me, they make the mistake of branding themselves as ‘damaged goods’. Like me, they feel that whatever they have to offer in terms of intellectual, emotional, and spiritual fulfillment to another person is negated because of their HIV status. Some of these men have such a deep sense of resentment, even self-hate, because of their own HIV-phobia. It makes them auto-reject love at the first go.
I did that for a time, till love found me and refused to budge.
He stayed on as my ‘(un)lawfully’ wedded husband.
No matter what your instincts tell you, someone who loves you will love you because they see you for who you are. So invest in yourself—embrace who you are. That is the only way to let others see the value you bring through living your life.
When I told my partner about my HIV status, he said, “How can a minuscule virus come in the way of my love for you?”
My HIV status didn’t stop my partner from loving me. It won’t stop yours from loving you, too. But it is only possible if, inspite of your HIV status, you love yourself.