Sarah Britten
Sarah Britten

Dear Sandton, you’re not immune to HIV

Aids ribbon
Dear Sandton,

I get it. You’re rich. You drive nice cars and own nice things. You work in shiny corporate offices with designated parking spaces and live in gated estates. You meet people from work or on dating websites. You work the network or get picked up in the local Baron, or at least that’s how things worked back before I retired permanently from the dating scene.

When you sleep around, you don’t always use condoms. Oh, you might, the first time. Maybe the second and third time, too. But after that it’s such a schlep and you never have one around and you’re horny and and and. Plus, rich (and, yes, white) people who have nice jobs and went to nice schools and come from nice families aren’t HIV+. Because being LSM 10+ not only means you’re paying a lot of personal income tax. It also means you’re immune to HIV.

HIV/Aids is something that happens to poor black people, or gay guys from back in the day, like my friend who got married yesterday, who’s on ARVs after picking up the virus in Europe 10 years ago.

You’ve been hearing about Aids for years now. (I first learned about it in 1989, when I was in Std 7.) Quite frankly, it isn’t something you think about too often these days. It’s still there in the corporate social investment strategy, but with the days of Mbeki and Aids denialism behind us, we’ve moved on. We’re less interested. LeadSA might be doing something with T-shirts at Constitution Hill, but quite frankly, HIV/Aids is passé.

Well, guess what, it isn’t. It happens, and it happens to people who think that the safe-sex message stops applying after you turn 30. (It’s office party season, so it’s probably happening all the time now.)

Eighteen months ago, I found myself sitting in a Dischem clinic in Fourways, heart pounding, waiting for the nurse to prick my finger and tell me positive or negative. Six months of hell because I assumed it wouldn’t happen to me, and didn’t have the guts to say no to a man I admired a great deal and fell for when he did me the immense honour of paying attention to me over one random weekend. I’m in my 30s and educated and should know better, but even women like me are not very good at standing up for ourselves, not where male desire is concerned. When a charismatic jerk says jump into bed, we do. We know we shouldn’t, but we can’t help ourselves.

I know I’m not the only one. I know that there are men and women out there, my age and older, who take chances they really shouldn’t.

So take this from someone who’s been there: stop taking chances. Stop thinking this doesn’t apply to you. Because it does. And you don’t want to be that person sitting in the clinic at Dischem wondering if you’re not going to be one of the lucky ones.

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