…I’ve heard this line a few times now after disclosing my HIV status. I’m not at all offended – but I do find it curious, and can’t help but wonder why exactly. The first couple of times I could totally understand, shortly after I was diagnosed it was obvious I had something weighing on my mind and I guess I made a big deal of letting people know I had something important to discuss.
However, it’s happened a few times since, on occasions when I’ve disclosed my HIV status within a fairly relaxed conversation.
As I say, I’m not offended. But I guess it’s left me questioning how I didn’t see it coming. I mean, if it’s not surprising to others that I’m HIV positive, why did it come as such a shock to me?
I don’t and have never considered myself an excessive risk-taker when it comes to sex. I’ve no issue with using condoms, and having discussed this with many of my gay friends, it would seem I’ve had fewer unprotected sexual partners in my life than most.
Of course, it may only take one unprotected sexual encounter to risk HIV infection – but my point is, I’m not someone who would have frequently put myself in high-risk situations, so it should be really very surprising that I was unlucky enough to become HIV positive, right? …at least that’s my (admittedly flawed) logic.
In my time wondering about why someone might expect me to be HIV positive, one line of thought is that statistically gay men have a higher than average liklihood of contracting HIV than straight men, or women. HIV still has a strong association with the gay community. Perhaps on some level there’s a part of everyone’s psyche that almost expects HIV to affect most gay men at some point, so it’s not surprising when any gay man says they are HIV positive? …in which case, I guess I shouldn’t take it personally.
But still I wonder if it could be something about me that kinda screams ‘probably HIV positive’ to people even before I disclose.
Yesterday I was talking with someone, and mentioned I was HIV positive. His response was “I thought you would say that”, this time I asked “why?”, and his reply was something along the lines of “it’s just your language or how you phrase things sometimes. I’ve friends who are positive and sometimes you sound like them, I just assumed”.
…I didn’t question him on the specifics, mainly because disclosing my HIV status is something I still worry about, and the relief of realising I was talking to someone who didn’t see my HIV status as an issue outweighed my desire to understand what language I’d used that caused him to assume I was positive.
Perhaps for everyone that seems unsurprised when I tell them I’m HIV positive, there’s a different reason. Perhaps it doesn’t really matter now. But it still makes me think.