December 15th, 2007
CAUTION: This blog contains truth about the sex industry. If you are age 17 or under, please get permission from your parents. Although, statistics show the largest entry age into the sex industry is 12-17 .
Getting an AIDS test was never easy for me, because I was always afraid that my past could sneak up on me at anytime.
Back in 1992, things were different then they are today. I would wait up to two weeks to get my results, and they were always the longest two weeks of my life. When I would get that phone call from the nurse, my heart would skip a beat, as I dreaded the possibility that I was about to receive a death sentence. All of the tests came out negative. I was given the clean bill of health in 1992, and was told by my doctor that I no longer needed to be tested. I felt like God had given me a new chance at life, and I was very grateful for that.
So my life goes on. Steve and I get married and we have three children. I then formed a ministry beginning in the year 2001. So this is the happy ending, right? WRONG!
I received bad news when I went for a follow-up at my doctor’s office. By the time I received this news, it was 15 years later!
“You tested positive for Hepatitis C.” My heart sunk.
“What? That’s not possible!” I exclaimed. “I’ve been out of the sex industry for a long time. I was tested several times for several years after I left. I have had three children since then. Surely it would have been caught.”
“There was no test for Hepatitis C back in those days. It’s possible. I’m sorry, but you are going to have to give more blood work.” He put the fear of God in me. “There is also a strong possibility that you may have AIDS. Many people who have hepatitis C have AIDS.”
“How could this have happened?” I silently asked.
“Did you ever use needles?”
“Have a blood transfusion?”
“Have you ever had a tattoo?”
“Well, it’s mostly caught by blood to blood, but it’s possible it could have been caught while you were in the escort service.”
I was stunned and I wanted to remain frozen in my chair. A million thoughts went through my head, faster than I could process the information. How could this have happened while I was in the escort service? I was so careful about using condoms correctly. I wanted a family more than anything. Steve and I had been together for fourteen years and had been in a monogamous relationship, so I knew all too well where I must have caught it: from the escort industry.
What did this mean? For me? For Steve and my children? My Gosh, I thought. I breastfed for over two years, and there was blood in my breast milk. Spencer hates needles! What would this mean for my ministry? I just got done telling my audience at the prostitution conference that I was disease free. I received a round of applause. How could I possibly continue my ministry?
I was escorted down the hall to give three vials of blood. I was told that the second set of blood work would tell me whether I just had the antibodies or actually had Hepatitis C. By the way the staff was treating me, however, I felt like my infection was already confirmed. Counting the next three, this made eight vials I had given in a period of two weeks. I noticed that the nurse put on extra thick gloves. Right before the nurse injected the needle, I felt myself swallow as the reality hit. My life would never be the same again.
My two week wait was a nightmare. Every minute of every day, I had wondered whether or not I was safe. Steve started getting paranoid about catching it, and I started to feel like an outcast in the family. I started doing some of my own research about Hepatitis C and learned that Hepatitis C is usually not spread through sexual relations. However, according to the AIM Medical Healthcare Foundation, the efficacy of using latex condoms in preventing Hepatitis C is still unknown, and now, I, like others, had become just another statistic. I wondered how many others, like me, faced the lies of the sex industry and the consequences of their decisions many years later.
The littlest things began to frighten me. For instance, when I would have my period, a sudden chill would come over me as I thought, Did I remember to wash the towel? Was there blood on the soap? Then, one day, I caught Spencer using my tooth brush, and I rushed to him yelling, “Why are you doing that? Don’t ever touch my tooth brush again! Never!”
Spencer just stood there with a look of fear. I felt horrible, but my only goal was to protect him.
Later that night, I tucked my four-year-old son Spencer into bed and kneeled at his bedside. I softly ran my fingers through his dirty blond hair until he fell asleep. “Please, Lord, pleaseâ€¦ if nothing else,” I whispered, “please let Spencer be okay. I deserve to have it, but he doesn’t.
The sound of my prayer woke up Spencer. “Mom? Why are you crying?” Holding my tears back, I replied, “Because you’re so beautiful, and mommy loves you.”
“Do you want my bear?” he asked.
“No, honey, you keep your bear. Mommy will be okay.” I remained at his bedside until he fell asleep again. I then went into my bedroom and prayed, crying in frustrated desperation, “Why, God? Why! Why now? Why after all these years? Why didn’t this show up then? Tell me why, God? Haven’t I done Your will? Isn’t this ministry what You want? How do You expect me to run this ministry if I’m sick! Answer me! Why are You so quiet. Why, God? Why?” I was as broken as a person could be. In the next moment, I realized that perhaps the reason the Hepatitis C was never caught was that God didn’t want me to know at any other time in my life. Would I have been as strong? Probably not. Yet, at that moment, I wasn’t sure that I could be strong any longer. I was angry, but deep inside I knew the truth. No where in the Bible does it state that God causes everything to work out to have a happy ending on earth. We are the ones that cause the mistakes. God gave us an instruction book to try to prevent those mistakes in the first place.
It seemed like an eternity before the test results were complete. I received a phone call before I drove down to the office. The nurse told me that they had accidentally sent my blood work to the lab unfrozen, causing it to be rejected. When asked if I would come back in to give another three vials, I said, “No. I’m finding another doctor.” Slamming the phone down, I told Steve, “I cannot believe they messed up like that! I cannot believe I have to wait yet another umpteen weeks!”
A month later, the second doctor confirmed that the first set of work showed that I was positive for Hepatitis C. He refused to do a second set of blood work. Instead, he referred me to a gastrology specialist.
By the time Thanksgiving had come, I had endured almost six weeks of uncertainty as the gastrologist could not get me in for an appointment until the second week of December. All my relatives were so happy to see each other. All I wanted to be was a bucket of tears. I had no inclination to be happy or shake anyone’s hand. I saw no point in pretending.
When the day finally arrived for my second phase of testing at the gastrologist’s office, the nurse put the fear of God in me. “If your second set confirms that you are active, realize what this means. You could need a liver biopsy and end up having to take shots three times per week.” She then handed me a brochure that told me all about injections that, in my opinion, would make me sicker. As I was escorted down the hall to give my blood, the lab nurse looked at me and asked, “Are you okay?”
I told her I was fine, but the truth was I was far from fine. I had gone almost two months wondering if I was infected with Hepatitis C, and I had been concerned for my future and for my husband and children. I had been treated like an outcast. I didn’t even know if my ministry would flourish, and the nurse practitioner had just put the fear of God in me. How could I possibly be fine, lady?
I had to wait another two weeks, and I didn’t even feel like celebrating Christmas. I had started to wonder if it would be better not to know the results at all.
On December 27th, I finally got my chance to learn my results, over two months after I was first diagnosed. As I waited in a private room to learn the truth, I prayed, “God, you’ve brought me this far. Whatever happens, I promise You, Lord, that I will continue this ministry. I promise You, I will fight for Your men and women who You want to come home. I will educate the world about the dangers of the sex industry. Whatever Your will, I’m going to fight this fight. Everything I do with my ministry is for You.”
The nurse came in and briefly introduced herself. “Hi, I have the results. It shows HIVâ€“negative, Hepatitis B-negative and Hepatitis Aâ€“negative.”
“That’s good, but what about the Hepatitis C?” I said with concern.
She fumbled through my records. “Hmm. It’s not here. I’m not sure why. They should have been back by now. I’ll have to call the lab.”
I became furious. I prayed again, “God? If she has lost the results then I’ve had it! No more, God! I don’t care to find out the results. I’m through. Then it must be Your will that I don’t know.”
Twenty minutes felt like an hour. Upon her return, she walked in with a smile and said, “Congratulations! Your body fought the virus off. It appears you only had the antibodies. Less than twenty percent are that lucky. You are very, very lucky!”
Here I am, in December of 2007. I have had a second blood test to confirm that I am okay, and that I do not have the virus. Many people have sent discouraging emails to me saying, “You could still have it.” Let me tell you a little something about myself; that still won’t stop me from the mission God has laid out before me! It will only make me more motivated.
I don’t feel that I was lucky. I was blessed. The truth about using an escort is horrifying. Before I began my journey in the escort industry, I was told several times by my “madam” and “stepfather” that as long as I used a condom, I would be safe. I was told that an escort was considered high class and that only those working the streets got diseases. Because I was sleeping with more upscale, professional men, I was supposed to be safe. That was the biggest deception of all time. During my journey, I had used condoms, and I still caught Chlamydia and Crabs and was exposed to Hepatitis C. Some of my friends who have been sexually promiscuous caught genital warts and Herpes. THE TRUTH: is that it doesn’t matter if the person is rich or poor or what walk of life they came from. We are all susceptible to getting an STD, no matter what protection we use, as long as we do not obey God’s law. There is no such thing as “safe sex.” The truth is that condoms do not offer protection for diseases that are transmitted by skin to skin contact such as human papilloma virus and herpes simplex virus. Condoms are “safer” sex, but they are NOT safe sex!! No degree of condom education will curb the transmission of these organisms.
Listen to me, because this information can SAVE your life. I never thought in a million years that anything would EVER turn up positive, especially after I was tested many, many times after leaving the escort industry.
God already tells us us that “none of us know when we might fall victim to a sudden disaster and find ourselves like fish in a net or birds in a trap”. (Ecclesiastes 9:12)
I know other people who have fallen into the trap just like me. I get the emails. Trust me. If it can happen to us, it can happen to you to.
Are we really in control of our destinies? Will there ever be a day when we, as a society, will come to take God’s word more seriously? Or will we continue to leave the instruction book on the shelf to collect dust? When do we draw the line?
You read in the beginning of my story about how my stepfather made me a prostitute. I don’t know how your earthly father or stepfather was, but today, many of us struggle with a Heavenly Father because our earthly fathers did a bad job. But if I can experience physical abuse from my father, and sexual abuse from my stepfather, and if I can relate to God as my Heavenly Father, and if I can change – then so can you!
Now that you’ve read my story, please don’t delay in saying this prayer and contact me so we can keep in touch!
I am so sorry I messed things up. Forgive me and help me out of this pit. I acknowledge my sin to you. I don’t want to cover it up. I’m tired of everything. Come into my heart and turn this darkness into light. I believe your son died on the cross. Clean up my mess and put to death anything that belongs to my own earthly desires and give me a whole new outlook. Help me along this journey. Thank you for forgiving me. Thank you for loving me just as I am. Amen.
The first time I did this was back in 1990 in a jail cell after never having known real affection from an earthly father. And when I got down on my hands and knees in that jail cell that night, it transformed my life. I’ve had a lot of regrets in my life, but accepting Jesus has been the one open adoption I have never regretted.
(c) Susan Stafford. www.susanstafford.com