While other young adults were fighting to figure out this thing called life, Robert Studevent was learning an even more important life lesson. Fighting through depression and sexual abuse, he found himself using alcohol and drugs to mask the pain. As a young aspiring model and dancer, Studevent eventually found himself conflicted about his sexuality before identifying himself as a bisexual man.
At the age of 22, he was diagnosed with HIV. Studevent believes that he was infected through sharing a contaminated needle. As expected for someone at such a young age, he fell into a sea of depression and often used mind-altering drugs to numb the pain and the fear of the death sentence that we once believed a positive HIV test meant.
However, Studevent now sees the diagnosis as a blessing because it opened his eyes to the terribly destructive pathway that he was once on. He discusses his experience with being HIV positive and its effect on his life.
What challenges have you faced since being diagnosed?
Not many. I used mind-altering substances to mask the feelings. However, I have had serious physical challenges with bouts of pneumonia, neurosyphilis, bronchitis, hepatitis C, and arthritis. I have used both naturopathic and conventional medications and today I can say that I have been cured of all except the HIV.
How has it changed your life?
It didn’t change my life. For life goes on. However, due to the diagnosis, I made some unhealthy choices that aided in my degradation. The choices that I was making only succeeded in keeping me on a suicidal path for a long time. There [were] a lot or things l misunderstood due mostly to lack of information. There were many times that I wished I were dead, but I was fortunate. My family and friends have always been supportive.
How have you overcome the stigmas related to the virus?
I didn’t see any stigmas to overcome. The virus was a mercy for me. Doors were opened. I thank Allah for the virus because it has afforded me compassion toward others.
How do people you meet react when they find out you have the virus?
I’ve had no problems.They look at me and not the virus. When becoming involved with someone, I disclose in the beginning and do my best to allow them the opportunity to make an informed choice. I do believe that I’m just a carrier. Allah has been answering my prayers, and I have not passed it to anyone. I was married to a young lady for 17 years and I am about to get married once again.
You once identified yourself as a bisexual man … do you still identify yourself this way or have you become strictly heterosexual?
I identify as a human male. I still sometimes go through a hormone imbalance. But I’m only having sexual relations with women.
What would you say to someone who is having a hard time coping with the disease?
It’s not the end! Unless you stop taking care of yourself and allow yourself to die, you can still enjoy a beautiful life that is very fulfilling. I’ve been truly blessed. And my life is very amazing.
What are your plans for the future?
Letting go and letting Allah, and doing what he has planned for me to do.