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Dating and HIV

October 2010

Table of Contents


Meeting Someone

Dating can be tricky for anyone, but if you're HIV+, you have some extra things to think about. Two important things to consider are:

  1. Who do I date (positive or negative person)?
  2. When do I tell?

If you are looking for a positive partner, consider going to places (online and in person) where you will meet other HIV+ people. These include HIV focused support groups, conferences, or dating websites such as www.hivnet.com, www.pozmatch.com, http://personals.poz.com, www.positivesingles.com, and www.hivpoz.net.

If it does not matter to you whether your partner is positive or negative, you can focus more on traditional methods -- singles events, places of worship, dating websites like www.match.com, online dating/personals ads, or networking through friends.


Disclosure

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For many positive women, the big issue is disclosure. How and when do you tell? There is no one easy or perfect way to tell someone you are HIV+. As HIV+ educator and humorist River Huston puts it, "Unless he's in a coma or you have a gun, there is no right time!"

Often, it's not how or when you tell, it's who. If a potential partner is going to find your status unacceptable, it may not matter when you tell. Similarly, if a person is going to accept you and the diagnosis, timing of disclosure may not matter either (as long as you tell before having sex).

There are two main approaches to when to tell:

Tell and Kiss

Tell before the first kiss, often before the first date.

  • Plus side: Less emotional attachment before a possible rejection
  • Minus side: More people find out that you have HIV

Kiss and Tell

Wait until after a few dates when you feel comfortable with the person.

  • Plus side: No need to disclose to every date; more privacy
  • Minus side: The "Why didn't you tell me before?" reaction

Is one of these more "right" than the other? Not really; it's a personal choice.


Tell Before Sex

Although you might be tempted to wait to disclose your status until after a sexual encounter for fear of rejection or embarrassment, there are several major reasons NOT to do this:

  1. You can expose your partner to HIV
  2. Even if you have safe sex, and even if the partner is not infected by the contact, it is illegal in many states and countries to engage in sex without disclosing!
  3. If you have unprotected sex, you're in danger, too. You can still catch other STDs, hepatitis C, or another strain of HIV.
  4. Most people lose their trust in sexual partners who conceal important information. How would you feel if a date waited until after the two of you had sex to mention that he or she was married?
  5. Several studies show that telling after sex leads to an increased risk of violence


HIV Dating Tips

  • Have "the talk" well before you wind up in the bedroom
  • Have the discussion when you're both sober
  • Read up on HIV and safe sex and HIV transmission. It will make it easier for you to talk about.
  • If you date an HIV+ person, don't spend so much time caring for him or her that you neglect to care for yourself.
  • If you are concerned about a really negative or possibly violent reaction, consider disclosing in a public place or HIV advocate present.
  • Get advice from those who have gone before. Attend a support group for HIV+ women and ask others how they handle disclosure and dating.
  • Be prepared for rejection. Just remember that dating is a process of finding the right person for you. Whether or not you are HIV+, most everyone has to go through some trial runs before finding that special person!


Other Positive Dating Issues

Some HIV+ women find it hard to contemplate dating because they feel less desirable or less appealing than HIV-negative women. Remember that there is much more to you than just HIV. Don't let your status rob you of your self-esteem or your standards. You don't have to settle for being alone because no one will want you, and you don't have to settle for the wrong person.

Don't be afraid to have love in your life. Look for a loving relationship with a person who wants to be with you for you. Sex can also be an important and exciting part of your relationship. If you feel worried or guilty about the possibility of infecting your partner, make sure you know how to protect him or her by practicing safer sex.

It can be normal to feel ashamed of or embarrassed by your HIV status when dating. But if these feelings persist and prevent you from dating, or lead to depression or isolation, seek help. Find a support group or therapist; you'll probably begin to feel more enthusiastic about dating and romance before too long.


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This article was provided by The Well Project. Visit The Well Project's Web site to learn more about their resources and initiatives for women living with HIV. The Well Project shares its content with TheBody.com to ensure all people have access to the highest quality treatment information available. The Well Project receives no advertising revenue from TheBody.com or the advertisers on this site. No advertiser on this site has any editorial input into The Well Project's content.
 
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