Aug 14, 2005
I am a 25-year-old HIV - man. I recently became sexually involved with a friend whom I knew in
college and with whom I have been hanging out since I discovered that he lives in my new city. The
sex we have is absolutely amazing (we have always been very safe about it also), and he is the first
guy in quite some time that I have really felt had any relationship potential. After an absence of
6 weeks (work related) he returned and, at first, everything seemed wonderful. He informed me after
being back for two days that he is positive, and that he wanted me to know and seriously consider
this before we got any more involved with each other. Although I know that 25 is young, and that in
the gay community I am considered a child, I grew up knowing that this situation is what sets my
generation apart from earlier ones - the fact that we have been told throughout our lives about the
importance of honesty and self-preservation above all else, especially emotional attachment. I have
contemplated this situation hypothetically for years before it happened, and years ago made an
agreement with myself that, no matter how hard or unfair it might seem, I would always err on the
side of caution and not engage in sexual behavior with someone I know to be positive. I am not
angry or upset with him for not telling me sooner, as I fully understand the complexity of figuring
out when (or even if) it is right to disclose HIV status to someone. If anything, I appreciate the
fact that he told me at all, since I know plenty of people who wouldn't bother and who certainly
wouldn't go to such great lengths as he has to protect others in their sexual practices. He
suggested to me that I find someone with whom I would not have to worry so much, and he also
mentioned that since he found out about his status two years ago, I am the first person he has been
with for anything more than a one-night-stand. I told him that I couldn't see him anymore because
of my promise to myself and because I like him too much even to be just friends with him. My question is this: Have I jumped the gun? I have read your letters concerning the possibility
of success for serodiscordant couples, but most of the cases I have read (including yours) involve
long-term relationships or people who are absolutely certain that their partner is "the one." I may
be mature, but I know my age and how that affects me - I know that I am by no means ready to
guarantee this guy that I want to be with him forever. We have only been intimate with each other
for a total of about two weeks, and we still don't know each other all that well. Still, I can't
help but feel that I have been unfair to him, even though he was kind and understanding as always
when I officially broke it off with him. I don't want to be a self-righteous "neggie" as you say,
but is it right for self-preservation to supercede affection for someone very early on in a
Response from Dr. Frascino
Your generation has been taught "self-preservation above all else, especially emotional attachment????" I believe you may have misinterpreted that lesson. The "self-preservation" message was supposed to be one of HIV/AIDS awareness so that safer sex techniques would always be utilized. Twenty-five percent of the estimated one million HIV-positive Americans have absolutely no idea they have contracted the virus. You apparently have taken that HIV awareness lesson and made a quantum leap into the realm of "sero-sorting." That is the practice of only having sex with folks who have the same HIV serostatus (positive or negative). That, of course, is your choice. Is it erring on the side of caution? Well, it didn't work so well for the first two weeks of your recent relationship.
Have you jumped the gun and kissed Mr. Right out of your life for all the wrong reasons? That's a question I can't answer. All I can do is reiterate what you have shared in your post:
1. He's a friend you've known since college who is now living in your town.
2. The sex you have is "absolutely amazing" and "very safe."
3. He's the first guy in some time that you really felt had "relationship potential."
4. "Everything seemed wonderful" until he disclosed his HIV status.
5. He was "kind and understanding as always" when you dumped him.
Yes, I can certainly see why you "can't help but feel that you have been unfair to him." He very graciously suggested you search for "someone with whom you would not have to worry so much." You, on the other hand, told him you wouldn't even see him anymore, because of the promise you made to yourself (self preservation) and because you "like him too much even to be just friends." Hmmm . . . .
Dude, I think you did the guy a favor. He really doesn't deserve a guy like you. You may consider yourself "mature," but your actions toward this gentleman are, in my opinion, anything but. Ultimately I'm quite confident that "the one that got away" will find his destiny filled with true friends, amazing sex and a loving partner. You, on the other hand . . . well, let's just say you have many other life lessons yet to learn.
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