Happy #World AIDS Day…I saw this Tweet last week and it’s stayed with me ever since. I can’t know for sure of the intended tone of the author (whose name I’ll leave out, I don’t want to be the inspiration for any subsequent hate Tweets!) but it struck me personally as the height of utter stupidity. Has Dec. 1 become (at least for some) like some jaunty holiday where people get to wear red ribbons and turn their Tweets red and feel accepting and benevolent for a day?So now we have Merry Christmas, Happy St. Patrick’s Day, and Happy World AIDS Day? Ugh…
Anyway, since even social media forums like Twitter were saturated with stories, stats and the like that day, I dived in and privately confronted my own story as a person living with HIV. Sure, the closest people in my life know my status and are fully supportive, but my approach after the initial shock wore off has been to be as completely ‘normal’ as possible in my life, focus on being healthy, stress-free and…unaffected.
I fight any hint of allowing myself to be stigmatized and thankfully I’m so far successful in achieving this in my daily life. But I watched a documentary on Showtime called “Love in a Time of HIV” that shook me a bit. The most riveting scene to me involved a young woman in South Africa, in the moment she had to tell a new boyfriend she was positive. She was so brave, and yet it was clearly such a hard, humbling and scary thing to do. Your self-regard has to be incredible to manage HIV in any society, and dating and relationships are hard enough as it is, much less having this looming every time you meet someone you might like.
I was suddenly confronted by what I’ve been subconsciously hiding from.
I’ve previously lamented how challenging it is to have a safer sex life when so many positive guys seem to be exclusively barebacking. Can I tell you the number of hot guys I’ve had to turn down because of this? I’m undetectable, feeling great and still don’t think sex is worth potentially messing that up by exposing myself to a new strain of the virus. But temptations are always there, far more plentiful than the handful of safer sex options.
I know patrolling sex and dating sites for Mr. Right is probably not the ideal route to finding love, but I am having a hard time putting myself out there in ‘unplugged’ social settings for dates, and having to tell an unsuspecting date of my status face to face. At least online, you can mention it right upfront in your profile, and can only be rejected via an unreturned IM or email. A face-to-face rejection … just imagining it is so painful.
In other words, I’m not there yet. This blog did a recent poll about how many discuss their HIV status on a date, but I’m wondering if anyone has a specific story to share? I’ve perused some dating sites for people living with STDs and HIV, and even considered some HIV support groups, but don’t like what I’ve heard (people focused on being sick, rather than being well, is my biggest roadblock), and pretty much loathe the idea. I would love to be part of something empowering and loving--a health-centric group?--that focuses on living, not dying. Anyone know of one?
I’m totally ready to date and have fun and fall in love, but the media spotlight on World AIDS Day made me realize that I’ve been hiding out, waiting, and avoiding this move. I’m scared of rejection, of the shame of someone not wanting me merely because of my status. I’m in a dating desert, perhaps self-imposed, but I feel like I’m protecting myself, too.
Are there any HIV negative guys out there dating positive guys? When did you first discuss your status with a new date? I’m ready to be inspired, and get out there again.
I can’t wait to hear your comments (Tweets are welcome too, follow the blog here!)