My name is Arron Seams, I’m from Lewisburg, West Virginia. When I was looking at schools, colleges, I knew I wanted to go some place bigger to have experiences that I couldn’t have as a gay person living in a small town. I eventually decided to go to Columbia in New York and two weeks before end-of-term I met this really great guy. And we hit it off and things were sort of fast and furious and we ended up hooking up, having sex, and we didn’t really communicate a lot before and we also didn’t take steps to protect ourselves.
A few weeks after that I had returned to my home town and got really sick. And I found out later what I had was a really bad case of swine flu. But the experience took like 3 weeks and 15 pounds that I didn’t really have to spare away from me. And I was really terrified because I was online and on Web MD and what kept popping up was acute HIV infection and I was really terrified. I talked to a few of my friends that are healthcare providers here in the area, in Lewisburg, and received advice like, “Well, you should make sure that it’s not just confidential but also anonymous” because this was 2010 and it’s still, the fact that I requested an HIV test could limit at that point insurance that I could get later. So it was this weird sort of thing, I was getting problematic advice and also just really terrified, and working 40+ hours a week and not getting a lot of sleep, and thinking I was really sick, and I started living as if I was really sick.
When I got the test results back in New York, I was really relieved. I took a friend with me so that I would have someone right there besides me as support and it was a relief but I also realized that I had missed out on a lot and had kind of become more withdrawn because of the experience because I was living as if I was sick.
After I told my friend I called my parents and they were really happy. They put me on speaker phone and talked to me together and it was nice because I kind of felt the same relief. They said all the right things, they’ve always kind of tried to say the right things but there was just something in their tone that I could tell that they were at ease instead of just saying the right things.
And now it’s interesting because I just really didn’t know a lot about HIV at the time and I feel like whatever the results had been, my life would still be okay. And I’d still be able to adapt and have a full life. So it’s interesting: I left to kind of gain experiences that I couldn’t get at home. And what I learned was that it is okay to be alone and I don’t necessarily need those experiences to be who I am and to improve on the relationships that I have with the people that are already in my life. And it’s also showed me that it’s really important to communicate with the people that are in my life, whether they’ve been there since birth like my family or whether I’m just meeting them.