HIV. It’s one of the biggest fears in the gay community. It has been since the early 1980′s, when AIDS was discovered and it became an epidemic. For over three decades millions of dollars has been poured into education and resources. While HIV/AIDS is no longer on the dramatic rise that it once was, there is still no cure. Unfortunately, not enough men get tested regularly to know their status.
“I had a friend who worked at Qmunity Resource Centre,” said 30 year old Vancouver resident, Corey Ouellet. Qmunity is a Vancouver-based not-for-profit resource centre providing support to the LGBT community across British Columbia. “I was taking him out for dinner and he had a couple of things to finish up before we left. Knowing there was a testing centre down the hall, I used the time to get tested.”
While his sexual encounters were adventurous, he made a point to always carry condoms with him. However, there were times in his past that the heat of the moment overtook logic and reason.
“I was diligent about getting tested every six to nine months,” said Corey, who self-admits he was extremely sexually active throughout his life. “I frequented bathhouses and cruised online sites.”
At the time, Corey has no idea how this simple blood test would change his life, forever.
“I didn’t even consider the chance of testing positive,” Corey said, remembering the day he went to get his test results. Corey would learn at that moment that he was HIV positive.
“My first reaction was slightly alarming to the nurse,” Corey exclaimed. “I said ‘Thank God!’” His reaction wasn’t based on receiving news he was HIV positive. Corey had been suffering from severe tiredness for several months and wasn’t able to receive the medical care he required. “It was a sigh of relief knowing that I would now have some of the top medical minds at my reach to determine the cause of this fatigue.”
After receiving his test results Corey first action was to call a close friend who he knew was HIV positive. He had a lot of questions on his mind and wanted to get some real answers from a trusted source.
“I needed to tell someone,” said Corey, knowing full-well that his friend had gone through the exact same thing and would be a good starting point for this new chapter of his life. “Emotionally, at first, I was numb and I felt disconnected. My mind was racing with questions of, What if? and What now?”
Corey would later learn that his fatigue was the result of a life-threatening platelet count, which was unrelated to him being HIV positive.
“I have been blessed with meeting some amazing survivors of HIV/AIDS and I have become more in touch with myself and my body,” Corey explained. “I have a nearly perfect bill-of-health and my outlook on life has changed for the better.”
While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS today, and it is impossible to turn back time. Three years after learning he is HIV positive, Corey is still the same friendly and out-going person he has always been and remains up-beat. He is passionate about learning more about the subject, raising awareness for others, encouraging others to practice safe sex, sharing his story, and most importantly, offering advice to others to practice safer sex.
“Educate yourself and be aware of what you are getting into,” says Corey. “There are safe ways to explore sexuality and condoms are available within a couple of blocks of wherever you might find yourself. Understand the risks and if you are engaged in sexual activity, get tested regularly to protect yourself and your partner. The risks involved in sexual activity are not just limited to homosexuals, these transmissions occur amongst all people.”