Photo credits: Caroline Watson

My husband, Deon, and I are a serodifferent couple, which means that one of us is living with HIV and the other isn’t. We met about six years ago in San Francisco. I’m relatively young, 26 to be exact, so I was very young during the height of the HIV epidemic. Perhaps that’s part of why I haven’t felt afraid of HIV. The other part is that, as someone who lived in the Bay Area since I was seven, who has had many gay male friends, some of whom are living with HIV, I knew that HIV is a chronic condition these days, not a death sentence. I know that if people living with HIV take their medications, they can live long, healthy, productive lives, and never develop AIDS.

After my husband disclosed his status to me, I did some research to find out what my risk would be if we had condomless sex. I found “The Swiss Statement,” which said that if the person living with HIV had achieved an undetectable viral load, they were much less likely to pass HIV to their partner(s). I encouraged him to start treatment, and he began getting his care at Ward 86 at San Francisco General Hospital. He was afraid at first, so I would go with him to his appointments and encourage him to take his medications.

He became undetectable pretty quickly, and we were both very happy. We had been together for about two years when I got pregnant. We had been having condomless sex, and my birth control had failed. I was actually happy, though, and so was Deon. We were very excited about the baby.

I made an appointment at the prenatal clinic at San Francisco General Hospital. At my first appointment, the midwife I was seeing asked me the usual questions: did I smoke, drink, use drugs, or have sex with someone who had HIV.

I said, “No to the first three, but my baby’s father is living with HIV.” The midwife gave me a very strange look and said she had to go talk to someone. When she came back, she was still looking at me like I was crazy. She told me she couldn’t see me anymore and that she was referring me to BAPAC (Bay Area Perinatal AIDS Center, now known as HIVE). I was happy about this, because I didn’t like the way she was acting towards me.

I got AMAZING care at BAPAC, the providers were wonderful. Deon and I got our care there together throughout my pregnancy. I was offered PrEP (a once a day pill to prevent HIV), but I wasn’t interested, because I felt like Deon having an undetectable viral load was enough protection for me (this method of prevention that we use is known as TasP, or Treatment as Prevention). Deon had his viral load checked every month, and I got an HIV test at the same time.

While I was in care at BAPAC, I met Shannon Weber, and Deon and I agreed to participate in some videos for men who have sex with women and for couples like us. The videos are Having a Healthy Sex Life and a Healthy Family, Adherence, and Disclosure.

Our daughter, Valerie, was born on February 15, 2013, at San Francisco General Hospital. I developed cholestasis during my last week of pregnancy, and had to get an induction. It took three days, and Deon stayed in the hospital the whole time with me. I had a pretty good birth experience, the only really rough part was between my water finally breaking and the epidural.

Now, Valerie is two and a half, and in preschool. Deon and I will have been together for six years in January, 2016. We’ve had condomless sex for almost the whole six years, and I’m still negative. We live in the East Bay, and I’m studying to become a social worker. I’m now the Social Justice and Communications Coordinator at HIVE (formerly BAPAC).

 

Caroline Watson is the Social Justice and Communications Coordinator at HIVE, and the founder of #WeAreAllWomen. She is married to a man who is living with HIV and they have a healthy two year old daughter conceived using Treatment as Prevention (TasP).

 

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Information and Resources from HIVE

As PrEP training and implementation roll out across the U.S., we are wondering how the 468,000 women who may benefit from PrEP are finding out about this new HIV prevention method, what they think about it, and what barriers remain. Applause for clinics who are routinely offering PrEP to women, including trans women. And applause for women who are thinking about what PrEP might be to them.

We are on a journey, learning and growing together. Want to share your #WheresMyPrEP story? Looking for a platform for your voice? Interested in helping others by sharing your story? We can work with you if you prefer to be anonymous. No professional writing skills necessary. Contact Caroline@HIVEonline.org.

See below for resources on PrEP.

New Study Shows PrEP is as Safe as Aspirin

Is PrEP Right for Me? A Guide for Women

Preventing HIV During Pregnancy/Breastfeeding: Using PrEP and/or PEP

CDC PrEP Basics

Truvada Approval History

HIVE Fertility