Posted Nov. 27, 2008 – Kali Lindsey is living proof of the dangers of unprotected sex. In fact, he almost died because of it.
Lindsey, 28, a Detroit native, who now lives in Washington, D.C., was getting the occasional HIV test while a student at Eastern Michigan University. But, he wasn’t partying tough. He wasn’t promiscuous. In fact, he wasn’t having sex “all that much.” He simply wasn’t that guy.
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Even when he got so sick at age 23, from a painful rash, that he had to be hospitalized and was eventually treated for viral meningitis, he never imagined that his illness had anything to do with HIV or AIDS. As unusual as the original diagnosis of shingles was in a young man, he was never asked during his initial treatment to take an HIV test. It wasn’t until he was on the mend did one of his doctors suggest he get tested because he’d been sexually active.
He did, and the diagnosis was a shocker: He had been living with untreated AIDS.
“I’d gotten tested a couple of times, but I thought I wasn’t at risk…; that really wasn’t my issue,” Lindsey told BET.com. “The doctor said, ‘You have AIDS.’ Then he asked, ‘Are you surprised?’ I could not believe the doctor asked me that. I told him yes.”
After a weekend of crying, and then crying some more, as he put it, Lindsey went back to work at the bank where he was a sales representative. But for months, things were far from normal. Infact, he felt his situation was hopeless.
“I really felt like it is over for me. This is it,” he said. “I’d never been in love. That was not going to be an opportunity for me. I thought about checking out and being done with this.”
Instead, because he was raised in a religious family, Lindsey sought out someone to talk with.
As he thought about how he’d contracted the undiagnosed virus which eventually and unexpectedly turned into AIDS, Lindsey said he knew that the person who infected him never said he was HIV positive. But, Lindsey also had to admit that even though he didn’t have sex “all athat much,” there were occasions when he wasn’t all that careful. He’d had unprotected sex.
“The thing we can attach to this and learn from is that it only takes one time to get infected," said Lindsey, now vice president for federal government affairs for the National Association of People with AIDS. "And there are only two ways to protect yourself from AIDS: Use condoms properly and consistently every time or abstain from sex. The moment you have unprotected sex, no matter who that’s with, you can get HIV. As soon as we realize that… the better chance we have of stopping HIV in our communities."
Having survived AIDS for nearly a decade, Lindsey said, the lessons about always protecting himself was one he'd wished he'd heard from his parents when he was growing up. Even so, it's one that is not lost on him now. As he goes about his life, he is always sure to tell perspective partners of his HIV/AIDS status, and let them decide for themselves whether or not they want to hang.
“The bottom line is to recognize that gay or straight, we’re all at risk,” Lindsay said. “The one time we have unprotected sex or start to negotiate with whether someone is gay or your boyfriend is on the down-low, or whether he looks safe, you’re at risk. You have to use a condom effectively every single time.”