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Would you be comfortable telling people you know, that you were sleeping with someone who had HIV? How many people I may meet would regard me as their ‘dirty little secret’?

It has been 23 days since starting treatment and I’m still feeling good! The (very) mild side effects I did experience such as dizziness, obscure dreams and a slight dry mouth now seem to have vanished all together and I am now starting to feel a little more like myself again! I have stayed home the last few days however, I’ve been feeling quite a lot of fatigue and also a little down. I’m really not sure what this is about if I’m completely honest… but it really is not uncommon for those living with HIV and also those who have recently starting treatment to have these ‘tired’ episodes. I have no doubt at all that I will be back to normal in a few days at the very least, especially now I have spent a fortune on some more various vitamins and supplements.

As for feeling low, I can only blame two things. Number one, the weather change. Every September/October I am exactly the same, the memories of myself over the years being an emotional, cold wreck as the brief summer sadly fades into a wet autumnal wasteland with the promise of snow and ice gradually edging further ahead is now an annual expectation from both myself and my family. It never fails to arise.

Number two, I have been thinking a lot recently about what exactly my future will hold, particularly with love and relationships. My primary thought at diagnosis would be that nobody would touch me with a barge-pole in regards to sex and a committed relationship, with this virus posing a never-ending risk to anyone I would be intimate with, as long as I was positive, I would be alone.

My previously very high libido dropped to nothing back in June, also not uncommon. But as it has climbed back up day-by-day, and I have been speaking to many people, I now know that there are quite a lot of guys out there that would not let my HIV status stop them from being intimate with me or any other positive people out there, but would they admit that to others?

Would you be comfortable telling people you know, that you were sleeping with someone who had HIV? The thought circulating round my brain is making me wonder how many people I may meet would regard me as their ‘dirty little secret’, and keep any sort of intimate relationship quiet in order to protect their reputation amongst their peers? On the other hand, I guess this mechanism could be quite useful. I mean, if a HIV negative person would freely stand by an openly, HIV-positive person and admit they loved them to love to the world, that’s a pretty big thing to do, and an extremely good indicator of how much, they really must feel for you.

Would you face the stigma concerning HIV for someone you cared about? Or would it be easier to let them go?

Would you feel comfortable being intimate with them, and would you want others to know?

Thank you all for reading

Luke (@PositiveLuke on twitter)

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9 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Luke,

    I’ve been +ve since I was 18 (Now 35) and I’ve never hidden my status, or thought of it as making me someones ‘dirty’ secret. The only rejection and stigma I’ve faced has been from other gay men, and although it is their choice, it’s also their loss as you know you will never want them as any part of your life if that’s their way of thinking, not even as friends. I’m now happily married to a wonderful +ve guy, but have previously been in a serodiscordant relationship for over 5 years.

    Although that may sound like my life has been a bowl of cherries, trust me, it hasn’t, but positive life, is like any other life, it’s what you make of it, and I always remember, it lives with me, not the other way round!

  2. Hi Luke,
    great post! One that prompted me to think seriously.

    I’m -ve and in a longterm relationship, but were I single, would I feel comfortable being intimate with a +ve guy?

    I dont know.

    For some, I suspect that the message of avoiding any possibility of infection has been drummed in so succesfully that it will override information about low viral loads and how to make sex as safe as possible etc.

    However, I abhor stigma of any kind and hope that I wouldn’t be prevented from having a +ve bf by worries about what others may think.

    Something for me to ponder more.

    T

  3. I echo what Iain says: gay men are our own worst critics. I’m pushing sixty and it’s somehow disgusting, apparently, that I’m even interested (I got called “tragic” last night on the one board where I don’t say I’m HIV+!), and it gets worse when they learn I like it kinky. Naturally, I fight against all this (why else the biohazard tattoo?) Without wishing to sound like an ancient, I’ve seen enormous changes in the world of HIV since I seroconverted: maybe this time?

  4. Im negative and I wouldn’t have an issue with it. I’m sick of people labelling each other. Why can’t everyone just see everyone for the person they actually are? I can’t see why anyone would turn down something with someone they really like just because they are HIV+. It’s hard enough to find people you connect with as it is without writing off large groups of people for no reason.

  5. Hey Luke! I will shout out for us old folks. I would certainly date someone + if the chemistry is there and it makes sense. And I spent too many years in denial and hiding about my sexuality & so many other things. Can’t go back in my or anyone else’s closet. No secrets for me. I realize you are using it in a different way but many poz folks dislike the use of the word “dirty” in reference to them.

  6. I’m -ve and single but wouldn’t have a problem admitting a boyfriend was +ve. Like you have said its a good shortcut for identifying the people you no longer want in your life. I hope that sites like this one will increase the understanding of HIV and lead to less stigma.

    You seem like a lovely person and I’m sure you have a brilliant future ahead of you. I hope your low period passes.

  7. What a great post, thought provoking and the cause for self-examination.

    I am -ve and can honestly and categorically state, with my hand on my heart, that I would be completely open about, and supportive of a +ve partner.

    I’ve seen first hand the kind of stigma that a friend has to undergo through being open about his status and I wouldn’t let a +ve partner face that alone.

  8. Brilliant blog! I am glad you’re settling into the medication, and no doubt you’ll barely think about it a few months down the line. I barely think about it when I take mine in the evening, it’s like brushing my teeth. I felt really tired for a few months after my diagnosis and when I started medication but I think it was emotional exhaustion rather than anything physical.

    I was diagnosed +ve a year and a half ago when I was 22, at the time I was in the relatively early stages of a relationship with someone who was –ve. To say it threw a bit of a spanner in the works is an understatement, but he was brilliant and there for me throughout what was a pretty traumatic and terrifying time. It ended, and yeah HIV played a part but it wasn’t the only reason and in the end the only person who had an issue with HIV was me. I realise now that at the time I needed to be alone, I just need breathing space to process and deal with my diagnosis. We remain good friends and I asked him about it the other day, whether he’d ever thought about dating someone with HIV. He said that if I’d asked him a couple of years ago he’d have balked at the idea, but that changed overnight when I was diagnosed as all of a sudden HIV was the person he loved sitting opposite him.

    One of the first things my mum said to me when I disclosed was ‘this is not going to be good for you love life’, and I was like no shit Sherlock. But I’ve realised that it only has to be an issue if I make it one, or rather if I let other people’s opinion of it (and me) dictate how I react to the condition. It’s made me a more tolerant, patient and well-rounded individual all of which will hopefully make me a better partner when I eventually meet someone. I disclosed to a guy a few months ago who I’d been on a few dates with and he was brilliant, more curious than anything. I put the brakes on it because I realised I was just going through the motions, but it was a confidence boost. No doubt in the future I will face rejection(s), but as I’ve become more confident about living with HIV, the less I find myself caring about the prospect. I understand why someone might not want to date or get intimate with someone who is +ve, even if the risk is minimal when managed correctly and someone is on medication, but I won’t let it dent my confidence or undermine my own feelings of self-worth.

    There will be plenty of men out there who are –ve who wouldn’t have an issue with dating you and shouting about it from the roof tops. By writing for this website you are challenging stigma, making life easier for other people living with HIV, and in doing so you are being incredibly brave. I think there will be a lot of men out there (-/+) who will find that attractive.

    Good luck with everything!

    Josh

  9. Great, thought-provoking post. I’m negative and my partner is positive. I couldn’t imagine loving a person more than I love him and his HIV status isn’t even a consideration. I wouldn’t stop loving someone if they developed cancer, so why is this any different. You will no doubt meet ignorance and small-mindedness along the way but you don’t have to have anything to do with people who express these views. Just be open, carry on and you’ll do just fine. x

    Best of luck

    Zack

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