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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Dating With HIV: My Experience and Thoughts

By Kevin Maloney

August 29, 2011

I am now 18 months post my dual diagnosis of HIV and hepatitis C, and nine months post successful hepatitis C treatment. I thought it was time to meet someone; no, not just for sex, but for something more. You see since my dual diagnosis I have felt completely asexual, and I'll admit, feeling a bit "tainted" too. Even HIV+ guys are hesitant to meet me when I tell them I also "had" hepatitis C.

So, wonderful, where does that put me in the dating scene? Someone would really have to be desperate to meet me! Recently I met someone by the name of "Dustin." He smoked, and I said I would NEVER date a smoker, but I have been desperate to make a connection with another positive individual. I thought I could ignore the smoke. He was handsome, professional, similar in age, and a sweet talker, among, um, other things ...

I hear the knock on the door, I'm a bit nervous, I look through the blinds (pictures match), and open the door to meet him. He reeked of smoke. We had some drinks, but all I could smell was the smoke emanating from him. Almost immediately I had withdrawn all interest, and my body language turned very cold. He got the hint, and excused himself.

I've met one other person since that night, and a non-smoker! While the physical connection was there, I couldn't allow myself to open up. Again, my body language turned cold, and he too left. Why am I having such difficulty meeting people, why can't I open up, why does my body language turn so cold, why can't I let anyone in? Before HIV I always had fear of rejection, having HIV compounds this fear. I feel like damaged goods.

I am also stuck in the mindset that I would never date anyone who is HIV negative, and think how could I ever be in a serodiscordant relationship? I would not want to give to someone else what I have, no matter how small the chance. I wouldn't wish HIV on anyone. I know that limits the pool of potentials as well. Since day one of my diagnosis I made a commitment to myself to always disclose my HIV status when it comes to dating, maybe this is my dilemma?

I've allowed my emotions over my status dictate my single life. I had withdrawn and isolated myself from the world. I am trying to slowly build the confidence again to meet someone, and crawl out from under the shadows of my illness. As alone as I feel with my diagnosis; I hold out hope. I have been in three relationships prior to my HIV diagnosis, and one for over two years. I've traveled the world, been on many adventures, have a creative and intellectual mindset, am caring, kind, honest and have a super loveable personality.

I keep the hope of meeting someone, because I know that really loving someone means loving them for who they are and accepting the whole package. I guess you would call that a soulmate and I believe that person is out there somewhere. So, today I make a commitment to myself to never settle for less than my heart's desire. And to anyone reading this with HIV/AIDS or any other chronic illness; YOU deserve to be treated with love, kindness, sensitivity and respect and YOU shouldn't settle for less.

Usually I am the one to offer tips and advice, but when it comes to dating and HIV I feel hopeless. I hope whoever is reading this will chime in. Are you in a relationship? How long have you been together? How did you meet? How long after your diagnosis did you feel comfortable seriously dating someone? Until next time ...

Sexless in Seattle,
Kevin Maloney

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See Also
More on Sex, Dating & HIV for Gay Men

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Felipe (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) Thu., Jun. 14, 2012 at 1:01 am UTC
I have been diagnosed with HIV about 18 months ago and have started treatment about 8 months ago. I have since then broken up with the guy I was starting a relationship with. We have only had protected sex, but the though of transmitting the disease to him forced me to end things without giving him the right explanation to why I had decided not to stay together anymore.

Since then I have been avoiding engaging into serious relationships because I'm afraid to talk about my HIV status and scare them away, feel rejected or even have my personal life disclosed to other people I wouldn't feel comfortable knowing about it. Only a few friends know about me.

Lately I have created a cold attitude towards other guys whom I could have a relationship with. Although I think it's a natural reaction of people who have just recently found out about HIV, I wonder how I'm going to grow out of this limbo and gather the courage to be honest to the next guy I have a romantic interest in. The fear of losing someone I like based on my HIV status seems bigger than just closing up from opportunities. I believe the moment I'm finally honest about it and the person accepts it, things will be much easier. I believe in the efficiency of condoms and being more careful about other sex acts, so I wouldn't feel guilty myself once the other person is okay with the fact I'm positive.
I have faith I'm going to find someone understanding and loving who will rise above my health issues or even other positive guy. I just don't want to limit myself to meeting only positive guys because that wouldn't be natural. That's also a reason why I choose to keep it as private as possible.
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Comment by: Henry S. (West Hollywood, CA) Thu., Nov. 24, 2011 at 5:52 pm UTC
Kevin: Just read your very moving post about dating difficulties. I've certainly had my own struggles with dating as an HIV positive man. But what I've come to believe is you have to love and accept yourself before you can really connect with another worthwhile person. It sounds as if you're working on that, given your comments about working on withdrawal and isolation. Also, I wouldn't rule out HIV negative men. My last two significant relationships were with negative guys. There was some initial hesitation on the part of one of them, but we both believed that knowledge about HIV transmission would help us transcend our worries. And finally, you talking about finding "that person." I think the biggest obstacle to a relationship - straight or gay - is the belief that there is "the One," and if only we look hard enough we will find him. It's all about compromise. Maybe smoking is a compromise you can't make. But a successful relationship will certainly require others.
Best of luck. Sounds like you're doing the work that's needed.
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Comment by: Dave (Halifax Canada) Fri., Oct. 7, 2011 at 1:15 pm UTC
Hi Kevin. My first sero-negitive relationship was 2 years after my diagnosis. I had met her at a dance. Telling her about my co-infection was qutie hard. We stay together for a year. I felt like I was putting her at risk and ended it. Now 6 years later and alot more knowledgeable about risk I am in a sero-negative relationships. We have been together for 3 months. I met here at a hiv and human right forum. We were friends at first then are feelings began to grow. I didn't force the issue it just happen. She told me that life is a risk and I was worth the risk. I thought she was crazy but really it was my own low self-worth that got in my way. I gave her permission to talk to other people about my hiv/hep c. I told her that I didn't need to know what they talked about just who she talked too. I also told her that she would need to educate herself about safe sex. My feelings about sex with her change a lot but when we share those times together it feels right. I heard it said before that "love knows no bounds why should you?" Well Kevin that's my story. Good luck and take care my brother
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Comment by: David (Indianapolis) Mon., Oct. 3, 2011 at 2:32 am UTC
When I met my partner of many years now, I was a smoker and he didn't really like it. When dating, I wouldn't smoke in the hours leading up to our date. After getting together, obviously that changed. I quit smoking about 4 years ago. We are great together. If he would have rejected me for smoking, he wouldn't have such a great, now smoke-free guy like President Obama smoked for years and claims to be smoke-free now. Michelle said she didn't like it, but there was more to the relationship that his bad habit. And, he didn't smoke in front of her.

So, was it really the smoking or was that just a reason to push another person away? I wish you all the best finding that special person. You deserve that. We aren't damaged goods. By the way, it was kinda mean to make a date with someone you knew was a smoker and then treat him coldly and basically run him off. If he is insecure (like many of us)that could really play with his head wondering what it was you didn't like. He probably thinks you thought he was ugly. But, you already said you realized you treated him coldly. You should have just finished out the date and not go on another with him. Perhaps if you finished the date, you may have found he was an awesome guy and was in the process of quitting. Don't ya love when people play psychiatrist like I'm doing now? Seriously, I can understand smoking being an issue. But, I still wonder whether you would have found something wrong with him even if he didn't smoke. Keep yourself open to Mr. Right and I bet you'll find someone as into you as your are them.
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Comment by: colin (Glasgow UK) Sat., Oct. 1, 2011 at 2:29 pm UTC
i have hep c thru drug use as a young rebel i must have caught it in 87-90 my liver is scared and me and my freinds where more frightened HIV but now 1 of my mates who got HIV can lead a normal life as far as i can see.See he can still go to restuants and drink as my liver is slowly detiorating i know the treatment wasnt there for many untill to late reg hiv i personally think hep c is now more deadly than hiv if you are non responder to treatment but going back to socailising i get many old freinds "we will catch up for a few beers" then i think to myself thats that then see im married 39 cirhosiss of the liver wasnt scared of hepititis 20 odd year ago it was hiv turns out things have changed now on treatment finished telprevir just on interferon and ribivirin but struggling with side affects all the best to all of us on these deadly dieases. colin
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Comment by: Chuck (Los Angeles) Fri., Sep. 30, 2011 at 4:06 pm UTC
Hi Kevin -

First, let me say that I'm working with my therapist on issues blocking me from dating (having nothing to do with my HIV diagnosis), and one thing that has become clear is that it is particularly difficult to date as a gay man whether you are poz(+!) or not. That is just the reality (at least here in Los Angeles).

I know it seems difficult, and certainly it is not always easy, but I disclose my HIV status right up front. I'd rather know up front, before forming a strong emotional attachment, if someone has an issue with it (and don't want to pursue working through it with me). In fact, the most difficult rejection I got was from someone who said they WERE okay with it, but then decided they weren't ready to deal with it after I had allowed myself to open up to the infatuation.

I started taking this action because I had dealt with my own feelings of shame and fear surrounding HIV, and the more I was open about my status the more empowered I was and the less power it had over me.

I've been less up front about my herpes pos status. Not necessarily because I'm trying to hide it, but since I'm on a preventative dosing I really forget that I have it (I always remember to disclose before I have sex). I can't say that there is a common reaction. I've gotten everything from "doesn't every gay man" to men who were more afraid of the herpes ("will it make my dick fall off") than the HIV.

Bottom line is, self-acceptance of your double status is an inside job. I got over my fear of HIV (I started before I sero-converted) by volunteering for an AIDS service organization and learning as much as I could about HIV. IMO, if you leave acceptance to external sources, you also leave yourself open to internalizing the external rejection because of your diagonses.

Good luck!
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Comment by: Tracey (Hemet CA) Thu., Sep. 29, 2011 at 9:19 pm UTC
I know your position EXACTLY, I've been in that position since the mid eighties. Fortunately, I was at the time in a relationship, strong and he tested Poz first: we were together for 12 years, I really think it would have been a lifetime. My next BF was Neg, found out when we were about to do it, didn't mind for that but stated he couldn't have a relationship with a Poz guy: he left for two weeks and came back for five years, (and left the relationship still Neg). Next BF was also Neg, we were again good BF/partners for five years, though he left to play, (he came out late). The fourth and last was Poz, but "unknown" when we began, and again five years......i used to not advertise my Pozness fearing reproach, but i've recently "come out" again and now embrace my self--feels much better, more comfortable: there will always be those guys with pre-conceived notions and fears, just ignorance (so educated them!)..but it's best just to eliminate them from the pack, before shopping the goods!
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Comment by: Taurus (Brazil) Thu., Sep. 29, 2011 at 5:40 pm UTC
Well, although I find you very attarctives (from the pics and from the talking) and I'm HIV+ I do smoke. So that makes me a bad candidate. I just wish dating was like the old days: meet someone, fall in love, get to know their flaws and deal with them, go on with your life (or not). You seem "stuck in a moment and can't get out of it". HIV and Hep C are not who you are, that does not define in any f*ing way who you are. Try to put your hiv and hep c aside.
I date a seropositive that has many flaws, and me myself have my flaws too. We've done a number of time with protection and without, nevertheless there is something called CHEMISTRY and that happens even if you are smoking, drunk, bad-breathed, hunchbacked or a lovely hunk smoke-free HIV+. Try to deal with LIFE and what it brings to you. One day you will meet someone nice, and keep in mind not to decrease your standards so low that you think you don't deserve to date this or that guy just because he's a smoker, or seronegative. Give it a shot - a long one, where you can learn how to tollerate people and deal with normal life, see if you can handle that :)

Cheers from Brazil ;)
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Comment by: Todd (Sioux Falls, SD) Thu., Sep. 29, 2011 at 2:48 pm UTC

You feel like you are being discriminated against because of your afflictions, yet you yourself discriminate against others because of theirs. Smoking is an addiction and as such, something that is very hard to correct. It can be done, just not very easily. If you are unwilling to stop discriminating against someone for their flaws, why then do you feel that they should stop discriminating against you for yours? You have Hep C. They smoke. Tell me why they should accept your flaws, yet you should not accept theirs? Discrimination is discrimination. The criteria for that discrimination is irrelevant, don't you think? Perhaps if you stop judging people by their flaws, and judge them by their positive attributes, they will do the same with you. And that Kevin, may very well open up a whole new world for you!!
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: AsianPrince (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia) Sat., Oct. 1, 2011 at 4:05 am UTC
Hmm, interesting comment. What Todd mentioned here is making sense, though it didnt strike me immediately when I read Kevin's write up at 1st.

Comment by: gurlzone (New York) Thu., Sep. 29, 2011 at 2:41 pm UTC
It sounds like you are using the internet as your main method of meeting Mr. Right. You don't have to be coinfected to feel like you will never find the right match through the internet! Without HIV status to worry about, it took me two years of email correspondence and phone calls with hundreds of online correspondents, and dozens of personal meetings with those who still seemed interesting before I finally found someone I fell in love with. You have had only two "dates." You are barely getting started, sweetie. It's WAY too early to get discouraged. Keep your expectations low and your hopes high. Good luck!
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Comment by: Anonymous Thu., Sep. 29, 2011 at 2:31 pm UTC
wow!!! I am going though the same situation even thou I know a guy for like 2 years that he says he loves me , he is HIV- and I am not sure if I want to be with someone who is not going through the same thing . He knows my status and don`t care BUT I can`t open up enough . I am scare !!!
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Comment by: Lindi (South Africa) Tue., Sep. 13, 2011 at 11:29 am UTC
Believe dont loose hope, someday someone will love you for who u r. i got involved in a relationship when i didnt expect it & we r married. My partner didnt matter to him that im positive, he jus wanted to love me & have a family with me.
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Rising Up and Speaking Out About HIV and Hepatitis C

Kevin Maloney

Kevin Maloney

Random things about me: I am kind, caring, respectful and wanting to make a difference/impact in the World. I've been to Australia, New Zealand and 13 countries in Europe, and have traveled and lived all over the United States. I have a Bachelor's degree in Health Services Management and will be working towards my Master's In Public Health. I am an uncle of two of the MOST adorable girls in the World, and have one brother. I am a Momma's boy, and it is hard to see my mother's health in such a deteriorated state -- she has severe COPD (from 40 years of smoking). In March 2010 I was told that I have HIV and a month later, with follow-up labs, was then told I also acquired hepatitis C (not through IV drug use). I aspire to great things. Stay tuned.

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