Loving in spite of HIV ‘€“ Part 2 Living with AIDS 462

Sensitive readers and listeners are warned that they may find the content of the following report sexually explicit.

7db635d91ec0.jpgIn the last Living with AIDS feature, Katlego and Mpho told us that even though HIV is very much a part of their lives, it does not necessarily get in the way of them enjoying a meaningful and love-filled relationship. They still have dreams and aspirations to accomplish together. But the couple does realise that they have to make adjustments and take extra precautions to ensure that Katlego does not pass on the HI virus to Mpho. Living with this knowledge every day of her life and having a sexual relationship with Katlego, I asked Mpho if she does find it challenging to love her partner.      

‘€œNot at all. He’€™s a human being – a lovable human being. There’€™s no challenge at all. Sex is there. Kissing is there. Especially if you love your partner, it’€™s there. I won’€™t get HIV from kissing him. I won’€™t get HIV from lying on his shoulders, on his chest, holding hands, no! I won’€™t get HIV from that… and having sex as well. I won’€™t get HIV from that. We know that we need to use a condom’€,   Mpho says in response to the question.

Her partner, Katlego, shares her   view that there is no risk of him infecting her.

‘€œWhen we sleep we do not sleep in rain coats or any sort of specialised clothes. It’€™s summer now. It’€™s really hot. We just sleep naked. For us we know that we need to use condoms. Given the mode of transmission that’€™s the only time when our bodily fluids come into contact ‘€“ when having sex. There is no any other thing that puts her in danger of getting HIV from me. We know how to use condoms properly’€, he adds.

However, the couple has boundaries as to what they can or cannot do during intimacy. Oral sex is currently strictly forbidden for Katlego.

‘€œIn the past seven years after testing I’€™ve equipped myself with a whole lot of information. I also know that the transmission through oral sex is very minimal, especially if you are on treatment, given that I’€™ve been on treatment for six years now. But to be quite honest with you, she (Mpho) still has issues with that. I believe that it’€™s because she wants to do her own research and get her own facts. I don’€™t want to be feeding her. I don’€™t want to be like I’€™m sort of coercing her into believing what I’€™m saying. We agreed that once she is very comfortable and once she’€™s got the information herself, then only if she feels she’€™s very safe she can do whatever that she can do. But on my part, there is nothing I’€™m not doing’€, says Katlego, laughing naughtily.  

When asked why, Mpho says her reasons for not giving Katlego sex ‘€œare very stupid’€ and then goes on to say: ‘€œI’€™ve got a little bit of research. I know that if you do a blow job, I won’€™t get HIV if I don’€™t have any cuts inside my mouth or open wounds. But you know’€¦ I’€™m still scared even today. But one day’€¦ one day is one day!’€

How the couple relates to each other shows that love is built out of many blocks, one of which is faith and trust. Their relationship of many years has been on and off and Katlego contracted HIV during one of their several break-ups. And he chose to disclose his HIV-positive status to Mpho when they got back together again. Mpho says she appreciated the honesty. But what if Katlego didn’€™t tell her of his health status?  

‘€œObviously, I was going to be bitter (and) angry at him, thinking that he’€™s selfish. Why didn’€™t he tell me? Why? I was going to ask him those kinds of questions’€, she says.

For Katlego, disclosing to his partner was important for peace of mind and building a healthy relationship.

‘€œIt’€™s a bit heavy to walk around with something like that on your shoulders, on your mind. Sometimes, you need to share your fears if you do have fears. If you can’€™t share those views with a person who is very close to you, for me, you are not really enjoying the kind of relationship that you are having’€, he says.

One might add that it’€™s important to disclose one’€™s HIV-positive status to a potential partner in order to have a guilt-free conscience and to protect each other. But with stigma and discrimination that still hold sway, many people are afraid to tell that they have HIV. The fact that Katlego and Mpho have not used their real names for purposes of this report is a powerful reminder of the stigma and discrimination that people living with HIV and AIDS still face.


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