Just*in Time: September 2016

I need your help. I’m writing from Ghana, where every gay person is living in the closet. I’m married with kids. I recently had sex (I was top) with a guy without a condom (that was very foolish of me) who was about nineteen years-old and who I met on Facebook. A day after the regrettable act I noticed a spot of discharge in my pants; I did not take it seriously because I foolishly thought a pubic hair might have pricked the urethra and that it would stop on its own. I waited about eighteen days until I saw a doctor. My urine test showed presence of bacteria and a urethra swab showed presence of staph bureaus. I took a number of antibiotics. The discharge stopped after a day of taking antibiotics. My wife got infected in the process and was given antibiotics after a urine test and then a uterus swab and blood tests when she complained of lower abdominal pains.

Both of us had some headaches and fever, which were treated. I am still nursing a mild headache. I’m so scared that I might have contracted HIV during this single gay sex encounter. I know I have to go for a test but I’m scared. If it’s positive how do I tell my wife and ask her to go for a test too? Not a day passes without me weeping and praying that my wife should not be positive even if I am. She’s a good woman and indeed the backbone of the family and the pillar against which the children lean. Please help. Do I have HIV? I have never been able to have more than a two-hour sleep in the night for about two months since this happened.

Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved.
Photo by Don Harris © Don Harris Photographics, LLC. All rights reserved.

Let me say that it is really heartbreaking that there are people in the closet because of the fear that is related to being open about who you love. Some of my readers don’t know that in some countries one can be jailed or even killed simply because of stigma and fear of what people don’t understand. This fear of not being able to be who you are directly contributes to increased HIV infection rates. One cannot protect oneself if one is not proud of who they are. Now let us address your problem, Ivory.

When there is a possible infection of a sexually transmitted infection (STI), I believe that one will benefit to get tested for all of them. Frequently STIs come in clusters, and, also, people don’t realize they have an STI because they are not showing any symptoms. I’ve never heard of a headache being a symptom of HIV but that doesn’t mean that you and your wife should not be tested for HIV. I know you are scared but it is better to get tested early. If one gets tested for HIV early there is more of a chance of survival and less chance of opportunistic infections to develop.

I cannot tell you whether you have HIV or not—the only way that you will know is if you get tested. You need to be tested as soon as possible. You say your wife is the pillar of your family; the only way a pillar stays strong is to take care of it. Also you might want to invest in HIV preventative measures. The more traditional preventative measure is a condom. But if one is not available you might want to try pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), which is a pill taken once a day that significantly decreases the risk of HIV transmission. Keep in mind that PrEP only decreases your chance of being infected with HIV; PrEP doesn’t protect you from other STIs, such as chlamydia or gonorrhea. In Ghana researchers conducted a study on PrEP and sexual behavior. The study found that people who went on PrEP did not have an increase in their sexual activity. Bottom line—get tested!!

Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Presently, he is working toward his doctorate in public health. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].