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HIV/AIDS Blog Central

Dis Honesty

By fogcityjohn

November 3, 2011

No good deed goes unpunished.
-- Cynical aphorism often attributed to Oscar Wilde.

I had an experience a while back that I wanted to share because it involves a question with which all us poz folks must wrestle -- disclosure. Specifically, I want to discuss the most common and vexing disclosure problem I've confronted as a poz gay man -- revealing my HIV status to potential sexual and/or romantic partners.

Since my diagnosis, I've adopted what I think is a pretty simple and consistent policy on disclosure. Basically, I tell any guy I'm going to get physical with that I'm poz. To me, it seems like the cleanest solution to the problem, and it has a number of advantages. First of all, if a guy can't handle my being HIV+, then I might as well know it right up front. I don't want to waste my time on a man who has problems with my serostatus, and I don't want him to waste time on me. Second, making the disclosure at the outset avoids awkward situations. As a trans guy I know likes to say, it's better to be rejected with your pants on than with your pants off. Seriously, I just can't imagine making the revelation after dating someone for weeks or months. How would I explain keeping something that important a secret for so long? I sure as hell don't want to have sex with some guy and only tell him after we've done the deed. (This is true even though I only have protected sex.) For all these reasons, I've decided that honesty is the best policy. Which it is . . . most of the time.

That brings me to the experience I mentioned at the beginning of this post. Some time ago, a guy I'll call Alex introduced himself to me at the gym. He's an attractive man, and I'd noticed him working out for a couple of weeks. We first exchanged glances, then smiles. Eventually we spoke, and he seemed both personable and intelligent. Alex was also very flirtatious. The next time I ran into him we traded phone numbers, and I was pleasantly surprised to receive a call from him that same evening. He invited me out for a beer at a local bar, and I happily accepted.

We met up at the bar and chatted while we sipped our beers. He flirted with me, and I flirted right back. There followed the usual knowing smiles and increasingly suggestive banter. I was about halfway through my hefeweizen when Alex leaned over and kissed me lightly on the lips. After a bit more conversation, I could see he meant business. He's an attractive guy, I thought, and having recently gotten my groove back, so to speak, I figured I wouldn't mind a little physical intimacy. I decided it was time to take the plunge. I honestly wasn't sweating it. Here I was, in a gay bar in the middle of San Francisco, talking to a well-educated, forty-something gay man. Surely he'll be able to deal with a poz guy, I thought. I mean, we're not exactly a rare species in this city.

As soon as the words were out of my mouth, though, I could see it was a deal breaker. Alex's discomfort was written all over his face, and I wasn't in the least fooled by the exaggerated smile he used to try to cover it up. He complimented me on my honesty, and he told me how rare it was for guys to discuss their status. At the same time, he drew back instinctively. Suddenly he was talking a mile in minute, in the way some people do when they're really, really nervous. There was no more flirtation, and more than anything, he seemed desperate to change the subject to something other than sex. He never actually said that my being HIV+ was a problem, but he didn't have to. I knew from experience we were headed nowhere, so after continuing the conversation for what I judged to be a period sufficient to satisfy the requirements of good manners, I politely said goodnight.

Mind you, I'm totally cool with the fact that Alex didn't want to have sex with me. I'm also cool with the fact that he obviously rejected me because I have HIV. After all, that's the whole reason I disclose -- so that my partner gets to make the choice. I just wish he'd been honest enough to tell me to my face that he couldn't deal with the fact that I'm poz.

I also have to wonder what would have happened if I'd said nothing. Would Alex have had sex with me? He indicated that in his experience, it was rare for guys to volunteer their status. Does that mean that he doesn't usually talk about HIV before he has sex with someone he's just met? Is he willing to have sex with guys who stay mum about this issue? Because if he is, then I'm really confused.

Here's why. You see, I know that if Alex and I had had sex, we'd have played safe. I know because that's the only way I play. So the risk of him being exposed to HIV by having sex with me would have been virtually zero. I'm on meds, have an undetectable viral load, and would have used a condom. In other words, if Alex had had sex with me, it would have been no riskier (and possibly far less risky) for him than if he had sex with some guy whose status he didn't know. But maybe Alex has convinced himself that guys who don't volunteer their status are all negative. Maybe he thinks he's protecting himself by rejecting poz guys like me who are honest enough to disclose our status in advance. If that's the case, then I'm afraid he's just deluded. (And that would really be a kick in the ass, because in his work life, Alex is a shrink.)

So I guess you could say I got dissed for my honesty. I was rejected because I told the truth. That's okay with me, since I know I did the right thing. I refused to be dishonest with Alex. The experience makes me ask, though, whether Alex is being honest with himself.

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See Also's Just Diagnosed Resource Center
Telling Others You're HIV Positive
More Personal Accounts of HIV Disclosure

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Peter (Los Angeles) Thu., May. 31, 2012 at 10:49 am UTC

Thank you so much for sharing your experience in this utmost important topic. I'm HIV negative but have genital herpes. Even though herpes is not even close to HIV in terms of the physical damages it causes, it is almost as difficult to disclose. I must admit that to avoid hurtful feelings I have on occasions chose not to disclose if my partner does not ask. I know it's wrong and I have justified to myself that since I always use protection, my partner does not need to know. But that is wrong and I know it and it's only by reading your experience I realize how much important it is to do the right thing.

I also find it strange that I seemed to be the only person disclosing Herpes when as many as one out of 5 people in this country has this disease. Most guys I've been with simply said they don't have anything, and yet they willingly have oral sex without condom or protection, putting themselves at risk for herpes/chlamydia/gonorrhea/HPV, and HIV (yes risk is low but it's still there).
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Comment by: Rick (San Francisco, CA) Tue., Mar. 13, 2012 at 2:21 pm UTC
You bring to light a big issue about disclosure among gay men. Many men assume that if they're partner doesn't disclose that they're positive then they must be negative. It's this mentality that's caused many to continue becoming infected.
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Comment by: Florence (Kisumu, Kenya) Thu., Feb. 16, 2012 at 12:41 pm UTC
I am surprised that I never read this post this before... you say things we/I think about so often, we wonder if it even matters to discriminate anybody's +ve status
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Comment by: Eddie (Houston, Tx) Sun., Dec. 18, 2011 at 7:13 pm UTC
It is amazing that HIV not only disrupts one's Immune system, but also one's social life style. Don't ever lose your way. I really hope you find happiness my friend.
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Comment by: Neil (Los Angeles) Mon., Dec. 12, 2011 at 11:31 pm UTC
The research is in. If you're on meds and undetectable the chances of passing HIV are like less than 1%. And since I only practice safe sex anyways I see no reason to disclose my status. If a guy says he's negative, what does that really mean anyways? I'd have to ask, "when was the last time you were tested?" Then I'd ask, "and have you had a sexual encounter since then? Because the only way to be sure you're really negative is to get tested, then wait 3 months (some say 6 months) with no sex and test again because you're last "negative" may have been in the "window period" when you were indeed infected but your body hadn't produced antibodies yet. Bottom line is, even well intentioned guys who think they're negative could in fact be positive.

If I meet someone I'm really interested in long term (which hasn't happened yet), I'd tell him I can only have protected sex until we both get tested for HIV. We would go to the rapid clinic together for testing as a lot of guys do, and I guess at that point I would have to break the news... same as would happen between 2 new lovers who I often see going to get tested together. Funny thing is my HIV tests come up "indeterminate" because my body doesn't produce all the antibodies that make a full positive ELISA.

I haven't actually done any of the above, but seems like a good idea, right? I'd slightly dishonest, but hey, you gotta look out for yourself and I don't know if I trust people enough to disclose. Also, I don't have herpes and want to keep it that way.

And if someone is dumb enough to ask if I'm "clean" the answer is always YES, I'm VERY clean. I shower daily, wear deodorant and scrub my nails. Asking someone if they're clean is way to vague to have any value.
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Wed., Dec. 14, 2011 at 3:25 pm UTC
Hi Neil: I can see why you feel there's no reason to disclose your HIV status. As a practical matter, if you only have protected sex, and your viral load is undetectable, the chances of transmission are miniscule.

My problem with your approach is that if I meet a guy I'm interested in long term, I don't want to have to deal with disclosing a long time after we've had sex. The guy might well wonder why I hadn't been completely honest up front, and that could screw up our budding relationship. Of course, he might also be very understanding about it. There's just no way to be certain until it happens. So I opt for putting it on the table at the beginning. No disclosure strategy is perfect, and no strategy will produce the desired result in all instances. Given that reality, I'll continue to disclose early and will just accept that sometimes, as with "Alex," it won't go well.

Comment by: Chess Nut (Minneapolis, MN) Mon., Dec. 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm UTC
Too many people are ignorant of the transmission risks. Too many people stick their head in the sand and think that if no one talks about it, then they have nothing to worry.

It's especially disturbing guys who base whether they'll engage in bare back sex at the bathhouse or sex party based on how a total stranger answers the question "are you clean?"

And still worse are the guys who AFTER sex then ask "You're clean, right?"

The paranoia and misinformation is staggering - and this is among educated Gay men who should "know better". God forbid we discuss the attitude and mentality of the larger society!
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Comment by: Jeff (Las Vegas, NV) Sun., Dec. 11, 2011 at 2:56 pm UTC
Although we've recently dumped it from the American Military practices, it seems as though "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" is alive in well when it comes to sex in a gay man's world. I can't tell you the number of men who will engage in sexual activity *without* ever asking about or discussing a person's HIV status, yet upon hearing someone is positive, those same men will run for the hills, never to be heard from again! Can it be true? Is ignorance *still* bliss, even in 2011?
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Comment by: Nathan (London) Thu., Dec. 8, 2011 at 6:49 pm UTC
I have been + since 1985 and have gone through the denial stage, the 'shove it people's face' stage and am now at the stage where I decide WHO needs to know, WHEN they need to know and if they do, WHY.
A wise + guy told me when I was at the 'must tell everyone stage' that if I made an issue of it, because it WAS an issue for me, then it would BECOME an issue for whoever I told, it would become a scary drama.
When on a date we need to be honest with ourselves, is this for fun or am I dating with a view to something more lasting? It its the former there is no NEED to disclose, if its the latter, then take it slowly and work out if the guy can be trusted with and can handle the news and break it slowly because once you have said those words 'I am HIV+' Maybe HE CAN'T SEE YOU ANY MORE, all he sees is your big scary lifetime companion that kills people: HIV, kinda kills the moment!
His first impression of you is that you have a chronic potentially fatal disease and assumptions are made about why and how you caught it.
Perhaps the most disappointing experiences occur when you disclose, the guy says he is fine with it for whatever reason, you date, you get serious, he then learns about your lived experience of HIV and THEN he gets scared, really scared and decides he cannot cope with it and changes his mind as we are entitled to do. That is a real serious 'ouch!'

Our news is bad news, no getting away from it, who one tells and HOW and WHEN should depend on the situation at the time, its a judgement call, a one size fits all policy has consequences as John found out. Me, I prefer to be upfront but I know its not always the best policy, sometimes a more nuanced incremental approach is better, give folks time to adjust if they matter to you and need that space, even if its harder for you to do than just whacking them with it. Let them see you and NOT just your virus. Keep Well John.
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Fri., Dec. 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm UTC
I'm afraid there's been a bit of a misunderstanding. Although TheBody's e-mail characterized my encounter with Alex as "a first date," that's not what it was. It was clearly a booty call. Alex called me looking for a sexual hook-up. You're of the view that if the encounter is just "for fun" then there's no need to disclose. Obviously, I disagree.

I'm also not sure that you read all of what I wrote. I said that being upfront and honest about my status is the best policy *most* of the time. It isn't always so. So I agree that a more nuanced approach may sometimes be advisable. In these circumstances, however, Alex was just looking for a quick hook-up. I did what I believe to be the right thing in those circumstances.
Comment by: Florence (Kisumu, Kenya) Thu., Feb. 16, 2012 at 1:00 pm UTC
This post was done very carefully and well thought. I appreciate the vast experience Nathan has in +HIV life; Not that it's unwise to disclose... but I also believe we need to know how/what is most appropriate by taking this issue both ways... social issues (unlike science) can go both/either ways...
Frankly I do not wish to make MY issue be someone's issue...

Comment by: Nathan (London) Thu., Dec. 8, 2011 at 12:04 am UTC
John you wrote: 'So I guess you could say I got dissed for my honesty. I was rejected because I told the truth. That's okay with me, since I know I did the right thing. I refused to be dishonest with Alex.'

You see I don't actually think it IS OK with you. Why? Because there was a consequence, one that hurts, even if its only a little bit, to your actions. You had made a whole set of assumptions about the guy and you thought you were on a roll and then suddenly its over and its like 'ouch! I mean ouch!' Did you have to be THAT honest at THAT moment, it was a date, for some fun, you play 'safe' so why was THAT much 'honesty' necessary?

I have also comforted myself with the knowledge that 'I did the right thing' but its never a completely successful strategy, its always a little bit irritating and hurts just a little bit when things go tits up!

Are you a better person than Alex? Are your actions more commendable as you seem to imply? Do you really tell guys ONLY so THEY can make an informed choice or to sort out the grain from the chaff?
Early disclosure is a form of pre-emptive strike, no matter how its done. Its a good strategy, often it works to our advantage, we protect ourselves from the hurt of rejection and empower others, though sometimes empowering them can be disempowering for us no matter how we dress it up.

You were NOT rejected for your honesty, you were discriminated against because of your status by a guy you were hot for and hoped could handle it, he couldn't & let you know, that seems honest to me.

Why would it have made you feel better if he had told you to your face he couldn't cope with you being +? Why do you need it to be that unambiguous? Why has he got to be 'brave' or risk sounding rude/cruel and say it upfront, perhaps he was trying NOT to hurt your feelings.

The truth is its not easy news to tell and its not easy to hear either.
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Fri., Dec. 9, 2011 at 6:29 pm UTC
Hi Nathan: From reading your comment, I can see that you and I do not see this issue in the same way. You ask whether I had to be that honest in that moment. The answer to that question is no if you believe that I alone am entitled to make the decision about whether my prospective partner wants to have sex with someone who is HIV+. Sure, with safe sex and an undetectable VL, I'm not putting him in any real danger by having sex and not disclosing. But do you really feel the right to arrogate to yourself that decision? I don't.

Am I a better person than Alex? I have no idea, but I certainly haven't claimed to be. And if you'd read my post in its entirety, you'd know that I don't *only* tell guys so they can make an informed choice. Go back and reread the second paragraph, where I describe the advantages of my decision to disclose up front. Those are advantages to *me* and no one else.

Finally, the reason I'd have felt better if Alex had told me directly that he couldn't cope with my serostatus is because I appreciate honesty. Unlike some other people, I'll take an unpleasant truth over a soothing lie any day of the week. And I'm not asking Alex to be "brave." At the very least, I'm not asking him to be any braver than I was by revealing my status. I just don't believe that we poz guys should be the ones who have to do all the emotional work in this circumstance. Besides, if he was trying not to hurt my feelings, his approach was destined to fail. I obviously could tell why he decided not to have sex with me. He ought to have had the courage of his convictions and just said, "No thanks, but I don't have sex with HIV+ men."

In closing, recall that what I'm asking is not whether Alex was honest with me but rather whether he's being honest with himself. Based on our encounter, I don't think he is.

Comment by: Dave P (Phoenix, AZ) Wed., Dec. 7, 2011 at 8:43 pm UTC
I can completely relate to this story. A friend of mine tells others, when asked if he us poz, "I'm undetectable". It sort if opens the dialogues to help inform. Sometimes that creates an open door for the future. I recognized that my friend's scenario is different; point here is we must take it upon ourselves to teach others when appropriate and welcomed.
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Comment by: Kurtis (Florida) Wed., Dec. 7, 2011 at 12:46 pm UTC
Yep amazing the number of people who have no qualms about not knowing someones status but yet act as if YOU did something to them when you are honest. I found it was easiest to just get it out there, even when it was just new people. Though my worst experience was revealing my status after listening to hours long conversation of how supportive much this group loved their token gay friend who was positive. Turns out they were still nice after I told them but then I found out weeks later that it had shocked them and upset them that I was willing to reveal my status. Needless to say none of the group are still in my circles on google + or anywhere else.
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Comment by: Seer Clearly (San Jose, CA) Fri., Dec. 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm UTC
John, the issue here is not a misunderstanding or delusion or poorly thought-out position. It's fear of death. As a poz man, and a man who studies with a spiritual teacher who has forced me to go deep into my fear of death (even before I knew I was poz), I know exactly how frightening death is. It's just so... so... absolutely indescribable because it requires you to contemplate nothingness. No control, no thought, no identity, no comfort, no familiarity, no time, no-thing. Its completely outside our experience, of course. And our ego projects every fear and unspoken loss into death. It leaves us in a cold sweat, unable to breathe, unable to move.

Yet, what makes many poz gay men so attractive is that they have an inner light of courage that comes from facing that nothingness, that screaming void of darkness, and coming out the other side knowing that who they are is not all the things (like a personality, like possessions, like friends, like a good looking body) that people use to reassure themselves that the screaming void isn't really there. No, the men I know who are comfortable with being poz know that the screaming void of nothingness IS exactly who they are. They know that we come from it, we go back to it, and we are made of it and our reactions to it. We could not exist without the void. And knowing that makes us strong because we can live in the moment and appreciate the wet kiss of a puppy, or the petal of a cherry blossom falling in the Japanese Tea Garden, or that look in one's lover's eyes that says "I know exactly who you are AND I love you", or most importantly, the silence, peace, and oneness with everything that comes from knowing that we all sprang from that nothingness.

As you said, the virus isn't the problem, especially with condoms, meds, safe sex, and communication. The problem is that we fear death, and we don't even dare to look at it and discover that it is our strength, not our end.
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Comment by: Dominic (Brighton, England, UK.) Fri., Dec. 2, 2011 at 8:36 am UTC
John, you wrote: "But maybe Alex has convinced himself that guys who don't volunteer their status are all negative."


I believe this explains such behaviour. I believe it explains the wishes of most people, whether they're HIV or not.

It's exactly the same as Climate Change. We are, right now, wrecking our planet. The house is burning, but people can't bear to think about it. As Al Gore has termed it, it's "An Inconvenient Truth". People don't like being out of their Comfort Zones. Nobody does.

Our "plight", John, is that people like you, and me, and everyone who is HIV, cannot avoid being out of the Comfort Zone, because we KNOW we have this serious communicable illness. We MUST live in the world of reality.

When you consider that billions of people ardently entertain the delusions of dozens of completely different religions and other belief systems, it's not difficult to accept that billions prefer the delusion that they're about to have sex with someone who is completely STD-free, rather than the reality.

Have a Happy Yule and start 2012 well!
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Comment by: Tyler (Owensboro,KY) Thu., Dec. 1, 2011 at 10:06 pm UTC
Most guys never ask before they have sex with another guy.I have neve had anyone ask. I never had sex with a dude till I was divorce and drinking to much. I was forty and dumb about how hiv is everywhere. However I did ask every time if they had been tested and if they knew their status,of coarse everyone was fine and I was dumb for beleiving them. Treat everyone as they have something bad to give you. I am healthy because I was tested every three months. However I wish I hadnt beleived the guys where telling the truth. Even after I found out I went back and ask all of them if the where neg. They all said yes. So I guess I got it from a toilet seat or something.
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Comment by: AtiendeF (Kisumu, Kenya) Sat., Apr. 14, 2012 at 12:51 pm UTC
Tyler_This sounds funny... funniest! how we all are stupid most times, we learn too late that it actually pays NOT TO TRUST anyone... goodness I couldn't help laughing

Comment by: BRBear (Chicago, IL) Thu., Dec. 1, 2011 at 7:11 pm UTC
Dear FogcityJohn,

Allow me to shed some light and give you a different perspective to your predicament. Let me share with you a piece of my personal history:

I became HIV positive on occasion of my first intercourse in life, when I was 23. Fast forward 6 months, and I happen to be talking to this sexy guy whom I had known for a while. We had never had sex. In fact, since my HIV+ diagnosis, back then, I had chosen celibacy. Fine, we are talking, and he is sexy and all, and then he drops the bomb. He tells me, "I am HIV+. I wanted you to know." I freaked out. I spoke hurriedly and I could not get out of there fast enough!

You see? You can't just assume people are ready. I freaked out because I was not ready to come out as an HIV+ person to another HIV+ guy...

I know. I know. It's silly. It's stupid. It's prejudiced. It's all the adjectives you may want to write here. But I know that NOW. I did not know that then.

Today, I am a proud HIV+ gay man living my life with my head high, always disclosing at the first chance, never putting people at risk.

But give people a chance to learn. Let them process life in their own terms. Allow yourself a chance to become a teacher. If someone can't have you as a sex partner, maybe daddy-up-and-above put you there for another reason: so you can teach this person how easy and important disclosure is. Like you are doing by posting on this website. Do not feel bad for it. You have done good!


Yours truly,

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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Fri., Dec. 2, 2011 at 4:38 pm UTC
Hi BRBear: I certainly do try to become a teacher in these situations, and if "Alex" had been interested in learning, I'd have done my best to help him out. The problem in his case, I think, is that he preferred living with his illusions to confronting reality. And until someone is ready to abandon illusion and deal with actual facts, there's not much one can do.

Trust me, I don't feel bad about disclosing. I think it's the only honorable thing to do. So I'm going to keep on doing it, even if I don't always enjoy the consequences.

Thanks for reading.

Comment by: Real (Los Angeles) Thu., Dec. 1, 2011 at 3:59 pm UTC
Thank your for sharing. I am a poz hetero male and since the dialogue for hetero males is very slim I appreciate reading how you deal with it. I have always done the same- usually after a couple of dates when it's clear where it is heading. Although only being poz since 2005 I have not dated much. The last real date on the third date it was clear we were very physically attracted to each other and she asked me "how does someone get me into bed" needless to say I was motivated by her boldness and it provided a perfect segway for telling her I was HIV poz. What followed was an acknowledgement by her of how difficult that must be for me to say, proceeded by a very hot round of heavy petting and kissing. Followed by an email 2 days later of how she couldn't be with me, then followed soon after by her calling me up saying she was going to a doctor to find out more of how she could be intimate with me, followed by her pre-ordering condoms and lube to be with me. Sexually we had a great connection. But I should have paid more attention to her post rejection. Later on she became very resentful of the fact that we had to use condoms for any sexual interaction. I have to admit it that before I sero-converted I rarely used condoms. But it has never been an option for me since I became positive. Thank God for the blue pills.
I now have told many of my close friends of my status since after that short relationship ended she decided to post my status on the internet and proceed to tell people I had AIDS. I am healthy have been blessed with good T-Cell counts and undetectable viral loads since my initial diagnosis and starting meds in 2005. Like your friend Alex I was in denial about her and unlike you were you who saw the signs through Alex's smiles and change of subject. I thought with something other then my mind and allowed my physical attraction to her get me into something that turned out to be very abusive. Lesson learned. It may feel good, but not be good.
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Fri., Dec. 2, 2011 at 4:51 pm UTC
Hey Real: I don't think the issue of disclosure is fundamentally different whether one is gay or straight. I do believe the challenges for a straight man are somewhat greater, however, simply because straight people are less likely to have experience dealing with positive partners. Here in San Francisco, it's a rare gay man who hasn't dated or had sex with a poz guy. And even if they haven't, at the very least, gay men here have had poz men disclose to them. So our community is just more familiar with the issue.

I'm very sorry you had this experience. Her disclosing of your status to others was totally out of bounds. Here in California, that kind of thing can give rise to legal liability for the "public disclosure of private facts." At some point, however, our status will become known to a certain number of people. As we disclose to potential partners, we necessarily reveal this information to people whom we may not know well enough to trust with it.

That's yet another reason disclosure is so difficult. How long does one wait before opening up about one's status? Should people follow my practice, and get it out of the way as quickly as possible? Or should you wait and hope that by first developing an emotional relationship with a prospective sexual partner, the person will be more likely to accept you, virus and all? Either strategy has its downsides. Doing it my way may scare off people who might be willing to learn to deal with it if they got to know me better. But waiting to disclose might mean that I'd invest a lot of time and emotional attachment in a person who's ultimately going to reject me because of my status. There is no easy answer.

Comment by: Mark J (West Sonoma County, CA US) Thu., Dec. 1, 2011 at 3:53 pm UTC
Having been in Alex's position I know from experience he's terribly foolish. It was in 1988 when I met John at a bar in Denver and we chatted for a bit then he told me he has AIDS. He had a look in his eyes, as though he expected rejection; I told him that I'd be damn certain to practice safe sex with him but I wouldn't reject him over it. The time I spent with him was all too brief- about a year- but I have absolutely NO regrets for having loved him. When I met the man I've been with for 13 years now it was about the third thing I told him; when he looked me in the eye and hugged me I knew I'd found my man. It's tough- sometimes REALLY tough- to be open about your status but I strongly encourage you to keep it up. Best wishes and I hope you really do find love and acceptance as you are- as it should be.
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Fri., Dec. 2, 2011 at 4:53 pm UTC
Hi Mark: What a beautiful story. Thank you so much for sharing it. You sound like a very honest and courageous person. With that kind of character, I don't doubt you've found a good man. Sounds like he's lucky to have you.

Comment by: Terron J. Cook (San Francisco, CA) Tue., Nov. 8, 2011 at 6:43 pm UTC
I must say, "THIS IS AN EXTREMELY POWERFUL ARTICLE!" Although I felt a cold chill while reading this article, it was definitely filled with brutal honesty, laced with unfortunate truths about so-called "Men" in our fair city.

Considering the fact that I am HIV Negative, I can only empathize with the pain of rejection, due to being HIV Positive must bring. It's almost as if a person is marked and immediately judged by their very own community; scary. I shudder to think just how many great, potential romantic/relationship opportunities are forfeited due to people's ignorance and fear.

We all have choices to make in this Life, John and I commend your honesty, especially with regard to something so sensitive.

Keep on keepin' on!
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Comment by: fogcityjohn (San Francisco, CA) Wed., Nov. 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm UTC
Thanks, Terron. It makes me feel good to know you're in my corner. But I have to admit that this kind of rejection hurts, even when I know it's a possible consequence of my disclosure. I don't plan to change my approach, because in the end, I have to be able to look at myself in the mirror. So quite apart from my sense of obligation to my potential partners, I couldn't feel good about *myself* if I weren't honest about this. As a friend of mine says, though, sometimes leading an authentic life is hard, and experiences like this are what make it so.

In addition, I'd like to point out to HIV-negative guys that reactions like this are one of the reasons some poz guys hesitate to disclose. If every time we choose to be honest about our status, a negative guy goes running, we begin to question whether we want to deal with the rejection. As you so rightly note, reactions like this are based on "people's ignorance and fear." Having protected sex with a poz guy who has an undetectable viral load entails almost no risk at all. Given those facts, I think some poz guys may choose to say nothing, knowing that using a condom will protect their partners from HIV. Personally, I think it's essential to have the conversation, but I can understand why some guys don't.

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Outlier: My Unusual Journey With HIV



My name's John. I'm 49 years old. I'm a lawyer by profession. I now live in beautiful San Francisco, California, after spending a long time on the east coast. I was diagnosed in 2004, so I've been positive for something like five years.

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