"All I Ever Did Was Love A Man" was the name of the book that was chosen as the July selection for one of my book clubs. I read it in less than three hours over the Fourth of July weekend. The debut novel by Dr. Sharon Denise Allison-Ottey is part-fiction, part self-help novel that educates readers on the reality of AIDS.
The main character, Sabrena, had a challenging search for love until a doctors' visit changed her life completely. After learning she contracted AIDS, Sabrena starts the painful process of informing her love ones and confronting the man she suspects passed the virus to her. Real-life lessons of true love, courage and friendship inspire Sabrena's acceptance of her fate.
The book is filled with enlightening information about AIDS including a lot of misconceptions. With an alarming number of AIDS cases stemming from the African-American and Latino communities, this novel is a must-read for those uneducated about this epidemic. While the author contends the character of "Sabrena" is loosely based on a former patient, she saw many "Sabrena's" live and triumph with AIDS.
I was moved by the article but was so busy with holiday activities that Sabrena's plight quickly left my mind.
The very next day I read a magazine article about Chanya, a mother in her 30s trying to raise four children. She does not fit the typical profile of a person living with AIDS. She is not a man who has sex with men; she is not a prostitute; she does not use IV drugs. She has engaged in no behavior at all that is high risk for AIDS, except for one - she got married. Her husband, tragically, did engage in high-risk behavior: he had unprotected sex outside his marriage. After acquiring HIV, he passed it on to Chanya. Now her greatest fear is that her children will be orphans.
So I googled the phrase, "married women living with AIDS" and was floored by the amount of links popped up. There were pages and pages of websites filled with stories of women who are now living with a life threatening illness when all they did was marry a man and expect him to remain faithful. Talk about being blindsided. As I read on, I became even more dismayed to see the number of single women who are also contracting HIV/AIDS from boyfriends, one night stands, booty calls, etc. When asked why they didn't protect themselves, the responses varied from "he didn't look like he had AIDS" to "I never thought this could happen to me" but the overwhelming response was "because I loved him."
And it made me think. I've been in love before - with two men in my lifetime and I can remember doing some pretty stupid things but I've never not used protection no matter how crazy about the person I was. That is until I got married.
But things have obviously changed and the stakes are much higher. Lives are on the line now. In fact, your life could be in jeopardy so your feelings for another person are no longer a cute or valid reason not to request that your intimate partner not "cover up". And if they don't want to, then you should probably rethink the relationship.
It's that simple.