Today Aaron takes each day as it comes, and feels much more comfortable to talk about HIV with all his partners – HIV positive or negative. His straight forward approach in changing world is to ‘get it out of the way’ and get on with life.
All Aaron remembers of Catholic school life in Brisbane was the bullying.
“It was horrid,” he says before quickly moving on to describe the freedom he felt as a sixteen year old getting out into the world.
“I found myself in some very masculine workplaces,” he smiles, “first in the building industry, then football, then racing.”
He smiles too when he talks about his first relationship.
“He was wonderful,” he recalls. “He played around and had an alcohol problem … but he was still the best partner I ever had.”
That first relationship lasted two and a half years before Aaron found himself single and out on the scene. Still stunning today at 45, Aaron had little trouble attracting attention in his early twenties.
“I had them falling at my feet left, right and centre,” he sighs. “Men running up the road after me.
He then entered a relationship which he describes as “a bit of a disaster, really” and attributes financial commitments to why it lasted for the five years it did.
Jump to 2007
It is now 2007 and Aaron describes himself as being “a bit of a lost soul”.
“I was over life,” he says.
Having just got out of one abusive relationship, he promptly found himself in another.
“But this one was bad,” he says, “very bad.”
Luckily this time the physical violence only happened once before he got out.
Depressed and anxious, Aaron found himself partying a lot more than usual. He was drinking to dull out the pain. And having lots of sex.
2007 was also the year he sero-converted.
“I took it really bad,” he says.
He had always thought that if HIV came along he would just start taking the drugs and move on. However, the reality was different and he was sucked back into the Grim Reaper days and his father talking about poofters and how they should die.
“But that was then,” he says.
Aaron has since found solace acting as a mentor to others who are going through the same thing he did. Trying to help them not fall into the abyss.
“There was this one guy I knew,” he says, “I just had a feeling, so I told him he ought to get tested.”
The result came back positive and Aaron took him under his wing. His friend has since found work for an HIV organisation and is moving on with his life. And Aaron is proud of how far he’s come.
“He was in a pretty bad space at the time,” says Aaron who believes that people often seroconvert during very emotional times in their lives.
Aaron suffered a brain aneurysm a few years ago which has compounded the HIV-associated neuro-cognitive disorder he already had.
He has good days and bad days but takes each one as it comes. If he is particularly stressed his memory suffers. Occasionally he has seizures.
“It is as it is,” he says.
There have been a number of HIV different boyfriends in the last nine years. Some—where he has disclosed and they simply haven’t cared—make good news stories. Others less so.
One friend reacted particularly badly and “ran around telling everyone,” says Aaron. This friend’s mother even confronted Aaron’s new boyfriend saying he shouldn’t have sex with him because he’d get infected.
“He told her that we’d been going at it like rabbits,” laughs Aaron. “He didn’t care.” Other friends came to his defence as well.
Aaron believes this experience did him a favour. He has no problem disclosing now. He is straight forward about it. Bang. Get it out of the way.
“And most often neg guys are more than fine about it,” he says.
Some have said that having condomless sex with someone who claims to be undetectable for at least six months is a safer option than with someone who claims to be negative.
“One even responded with ‘Fucken cool. We can bareback all day’,” he laughs.
Aaron feels more inclined to talk about HIV, these days. He likes to educate where he can. Guys under 35 tend to be more open, he reckons. Guys in regional areas less informed.
“I could get married tomorrow if I wanted to,” he says. But in the meantime he’s happy not to be in a relationship.
“I’m living really well with it. I’m accepting of it,” he says.
It’s a changing world out there.
It’s time to get on with our lives.