I work in the HIV field and I have spoken to several men who are HIV-positive and asked them when they would feel it’s appropriate to tell a guy that they like and probably like them about their HIV status. I made sure the question included the idea that it was before any sexual activity had occurred. I also want to mention that I asked the question of men that have dealt with their HIV long enough to accept it and had come to terms with their status however that meant to them with their own personal comfort level. It seems like the dating pool is extremely limited for HIV-positives. It feels like there aren’t as many open-minded or enlightened guys out there as it is, let alone one that may really have the ability to see the total qualities of another person, regardless of health status. Those men are out there, but they seem few and far between.
A few guys said they prefer to wait until the other guy gets to know them first to let them see some of who the whole person is and not just a person with an infectious disease; maybe two or three dates. Okay, that made sense to me; however, I also thought that it could be a deal breaker in advancing the relationship if the guy has reservations about HIV and dating a guy that is positive, assuming the other guy is negative.
Most guys I spoke with that are HIV-positive said they prefer to let the other guy know their status right off the bat. This helps to weed out the guys who for whatever reason won’t be interested in pursuing any romantic advancement with someone who has HIV. The reasoning behind this approach was that it saves on emotional investment and possible disappointment if there is an issue. Personally, I feel this is likely the best approach. I think it would save a lot of possible heartbreak. Unfortunately, it’s hard enough to find people that have all the information regarding what really is safe regarding HIV and what isn’t. A lot of people, including those infected, aren’t always as educated about HIV as they could be. There are no public service announcements or “Know the Facts” spots on TV about HIV, sexual activity, or human behavior in general (at least not in the U.S.). We continuously have to look to ourselves for guidance and support. Is this a topic in other nations, too? I would think it must be.
Now, I understand that this has an idealistic and Pollyanna outlook. There are a lot of people out there that won’t disclose their status for a number of reasons: issues of stigma, social rejection, feelings of guilt, anger, meanness, not caring, don’t want to know their status, just to name a few. Those specific topics will come up later…I know there is a ton of shit to say about each of them. And I’m not going to preach about how everybody (positive or negative) should be using protection no matter what. Let’s assume it goes without saying. I also know that many positive men will only date other positive men in order to keep the playing field level and remove the issue completely. It’s a valid point but again, it’s another topic.
I want to hear from the positive guys out there about what has worked and what hasn’t with guys that are negative. Share some of your experiences to possibly exchange better ideas and also to give the newly infected guys who are struggling with this topic some “how to” tips and to know that romance and relationships are still options for them. What do you look for? How do you decide the best approach, etc.? I’d also like to hear from the accepting guys out there that are negative and have no issues dating a man with HIV. Let people know that you do exist and that there is consideration for the whole person. When do you want to know and how do you react when someone you think you’d like to get involved with shares his HIV-positive status?