Dating While HIV Positive
October 18, 2011
Earlier in my adulthood, I met a guy who I actually thought was "the One." He was charming, educated and sexy; we had great conversations and an even better friendship. But, as happens, a problem arose: He asked me to stop educating people about HIV and to cover up my AIDS-awareness ribbon and live a "normal" life. The crazy thing is that his request was not the problem; I believe in freedom of speech, and he certainly had a right to his opinion. The problem was that those words came from one of my own. No, not a Black man -- one who is HIV positive.
I have never stopped dating since being diagnosed with HIV eight years ago. HIV does not limit me from doing anything. I do have options when it comes to men, and when dating, just as in the classroom, I prefer multiple choice: I date men who are HIV positive as well as those who are HIV negative. There are pros and cons to dating both.
But while I don't discriminate because of a man's serostatus, I would rather have sex with an HIV-positive man so that I do not have to worry about infecting him. Although I use protection, nothing is 100 percent certain, and my conscience causes me to be very careful not to transmit the virus.
On the flip side, dating an HIV-negative man means that I never feel the need to babysit: "Have you taken your meds, boo?" Nor do I have to worry who would be there for the kids if we had a family and both of us got really sick from AIDS. (Yes, people living with HIV can live long and healthy lives, but knowing this still does not stop me from having these types of thoughts.)
Positive men seem to understand what I go through; for instance, I take my medication every day, but I do not like it or the side effects, and I constantly complain. An HIV-positive man will usually say to me, "I know, baby, it is hard. But you know what you need to do." An HIV-negative man tends to say, "Girl, quit complaining and take your medicine" -- as if he knows what it feels like to take 2,555 pills a year! That is, HIV-positive men tend to say something motivational, while HIV-negative men often piss me off. Then again, HIV-negative men seem to believe that the fact that I share my story means I am very honest and open. They like that about me. Sometimes HIV-positive men believe I'm too open. It's like I can't win. My ideal guy would exhibit the best characteristics of both types of men.
But no matter who I'm dating, people assume that the men I date are HIV positive, too, because I talk about my HIV status on national TV. These men wish that people wouldn't make that assumption, and they certainly don't want to be questioned about it. I have yet to meet an HIV-positive man who is where I am about my HIV diagnosis: open and honest. And one HIV-negative guy I was involved with told me he would never be able to date in Nashville again because he had messed with me. (Take note: We were still together when he said it. Lame!)
Being public about my HIV status has definitely had an impact on my dating life, but I continue to educate people about the disease. No matter what type of guy I am with, relationships are hard work. And that is exactly why, at least for now, I am single and still trying to mingle.
Marvelyn Brown, the author of The Naked Truth: Young, Beautiful, and (HIV) Positive, has been living with HIV for seven years.