Hanging up my Superman Cape
A straight Black male gets real about getting tested.
By Floyd Galloway
I never thought of getting tested for HIV. Never thought I needed to. I’m a heterosexual, sexually active Black man living in a world with many obstacles. Being a Black man living in the United States is one of them. I want to thrive and not merely exist.
As a “conscientious Black man,” I am concerned about my community. However, worrying about contracting HIV/AIDS had not been a major concern for me. For years I didn’t think I was in the danger group. Yes, I’d heard the statistics: It’s an epidemic. No, I hadn’t been tested. And yes, I’d had many instances of un-protected sex—playing Russian roulette with my life and the lives of my sexual partners. But like most Black men, I wear an “M” for masculinity on my chest, just as Superman wears his big “S.” I’m invincible; no Kryptonite can weaken me.
That is, until this past spring, when a former sexual partner called several times and left messages: “There may be a problem, and I really need to talk to you.” All I could think was, “What the f@#*!? Could she be pregnant?” Ignoring her was not an option.
She apologized profusely and told me to get checked out. Her herpes had resurfaced, and I might have it.
I was pissed. At 53, I had never had any STDs, and now someone was telling me I might have one. But I was actually angrier with myself than with her. How could I have had sex without a condom? I really didn’t know her.
Then I began to think, “Maybe she couldn’t tell me she had HIV.” I had to get tested just to know my status, for my sake and the sake of others.
I have several friends with HIV. One, Miasia Pasha, has been a force in the Phoenix area promoting HIV/AIDS awareness. Through her I learned that National HIV Testing Day was coming up. So on June 27, I went to get tested.
Of course she was the first person I ran into when I entered Phoenix First Congregational United Church of Christ. She thought I was there to report on the day, since I work as a writer. I was so preoccupied with my fear about my own HIV status that I barely heard her rattle off statistics and talk about the need for more Black men to get tested.
I had already posted on Face-book and Twitter that I was going to find out my status, hoping to inspire other Black men—especially heterosexual Black men—to do the same.
After an excruciating wait, I learned that my HIV-test result was negative. So I posted a photo of myself holding a sign that read, “I Know Mine.” After a visit to the doctor, I learned that I didn’t have herpes, either.
But after all that anxiety, I’ve hung up my Superman cape. My games of Russian roulette are over. I will continue to get tested and have safer sex because I am “Greater Than AIDS.”
Floyd Galloway is president and CEO of Great Press America, Inc., in Phoenix.