All of February 2012 we will feature personal stories from people living with and affected by HIV. We've already shared contributions from Catherine Williams, Rosemarie Stone, Meghan and five young people in T&T. Today we present a conversation between Rosemarie and Dina, another woman living with HIV.
Dina: When David started losing weight in 1991-92, he developed what looked like a bad skin rash that did not respond to the normal antibiotic treatment. That's how we ended up at [the office of] your now infamous Dr. Andrea, the dermatologist. She did a blood test and thought at first that it might be skin cancer. After further tests cancer was ruled out, so they had to look elsewhere. At that time I was working at the University Hospital, so Dr. Andrea and I decided to test for HIV to rule out that possibility. I remember the day that the test came back positive and the lab was abuzz. They wanted to find out who the sample belonged to. We had marked it anonymously so no one had any idea that I was connected to this.
Rosie: What emotions were you going through at that time, can you remember?
Dina: I don't want to remember. I just know it was the most horrible day of my life. The next important event I recall is that we were both at Dr. Andrea's office, David and I. I knew that we were both HIV positive. He did not. The plan was that he would go in first and talk to the doctor. I would join them afterwards so that we could both talk to the doctor and to each other.
Rosie: So what happened?
Dina: David went into the doctor's office while I sat in the waiting area. He was in there for quite some time. He then came out and said to me that we were ready to go.
Rosie: Go? You did not get a chance to talk to the doctor together.
Dina: Rose, we left the doctor's office and David did not speak to me.
Rosie: No, that's impossible.
Dina: It's true. It really happened.
Rosie: You will have to help me a little more. Probably you don't remember. You were in shock. Dina you know that I have talked to you about driving from that doctor's office in total anguish and despair. He must have said something.
Dina: No Rose, it happened as I told you.
Rosie: OK let's retrace your steps. You are in the car with David. He is about to start up the car. What did he say to you? What do you say to him?
Dina: I tried to ask him if he had anything to tell me and he abruptly said 'no'.
Rosie: What about when you reached the traffic lights? No conversation?
Dina: Rose you don't understand. He did not speak at all except to say 'no' and that was it. What is even worse is that until the day he died we did not have a serious discussion about any of this.
Rosie: Dina you must be hiding something from me. It seems impossible for me to believe that.
Dina: Rose, you have to understand David's history. He did not speak a lot normally so now that he was in trouble he clammed up even tighter. He went into complete denial about his illness. He made new suits because he had lost so much weight, he actually moved into new offices like nothing new had occurred. The only obvious difference in his routine was that he sometimes came home a little earlier during the day and slept a little longer.
Rosie: I am trying to wrap my mind around these thoughts and I am having great difficulty.
Dina: There was one time I asked my husband if he gave a moment's thought to my feelings about being infected with HIV. He actually said that he did not know how to feel because probably it was me who had infected him by working at the lab at the university. How does anyone know who infected who.
Excerpt from No Stone Unturned: The Carl and Rosie Story by Rosemarie Stone; Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2007.
It is important both to know your HIV status and to seek support with issues such as disclosure. Find a voluntary testing and counseling service near to you.
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