HIV and China

I write about sex and love more than I probably should but alas, I wake up every morning a virgin and so I think it perfectly okay.

For two nights in China, I laughed and held a guy who loved to tell me how amazing I was. And so I amazed him the best way I knew how at the time. And after we parted ways so I could travel the country by myself, I panicked.

I didn’t panic because I was alone in China, I panicked because I realized that I didn’t know the guy. I was literally wining and dining with a person whose last name I didn’t remember and all I could think about was HIV.

Yup, the deadliest of viruses (okay, not really but c’mon).

In China, homosexuality isn’t banned but it isn’t quite favored either. With that comes the scarcity of necessary drugs like the PEP (Post-Exposure Prophylaxis). In order to have access to PEP, a series of tests have to be carried out and by the time the tests are over, the drug would practically be ineffective. For those who aren’t familiar with the PEP; it is the drug you hunt down if you think you have been exposed to the HIV virus. You have to take it latest by three days after the exposure for it to work.

I knew the drug before going to China and I figured that any pharmacy would have it ready for me and so I walked up and down the streets of Shanghai searching for the pill. At the pharmacy, the pharmacist handed me a tube of lotion after I showed her the literal translations of the medicine on Google translate. A tube of lotion. After twenty minutes of back-and-forth, she told me that her pharmacy didn’t carry such a drug. Sis.

By the time we were done with each other, it was well past 5pm and most pharmacies were closed/ closing. You see, day two was a Saturday.

The next day I cried to an on-call nurse on the phone from New York asking her where I could find the pill in China. I was referred to a private clinic in the middle of the city and made my way there.

The thing is, I am not a hypochondriac, I just have my death pre-planned and I intend to see it through.

At the new clinic, I sat down with one of the doctors and asked her plainly if I could get the pill. She told me to go to Malaysia. Malaysia. When I tell you I was more than prepared to die at that moment, it would be an understatement.

She was a nice doctor, however, who took her time to ease my worry. Apparently, you have a 1 in 909 chance (0.11%) of contracting the disease from a single encounter. Silly me. Anyway, she let me go with a pat on the back and no hospital bill because I was just a silly teenager who probably needed to reevaluate my private life.

I told this story because in London this week, it was reported that two people have been cured of HIV. I know HIV is a disease that could have been cured long ago but is too profitable right now for the capitalist machine. If I (God forbid) contracted the disease, would I have been sad? Probably. Would I have been angry? Probably. Would I have found a way to move on? Probably.

Growing up, the stigma associated with HIV and other STIs created a fear in me that caused me to spend two whole days parading Shanghai for a preventive pill. That fear crippled me with anxiety over a shaving bump when I was fourteen and sexually inactive. That same fear made me book four appointments at the clinic over a period of three months for no good reason. I wasn’t as scared of cancer as I was of Gonnorhea and today, I realize how silly that stigma has made me.

Anyway, be smart. Pack everything you need before you travel and if perchance you do contract a disease or an infection, breathe. Just breathe.


mille baisers,


One thought on “HIV and China

  1. I probably would have been as paranoid. Malaysia?? Yikes. It’s a sad reality, no one feels all these different emotions when they think they’ve gotten cancer.
    You’re good with words Maame. Very good.


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