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Peter and Kathy McLoyd's Serodiscordant Relationship

A Married Couple Talks About Their Mixed-HIV-Status Relationship

December 22, 2012

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This Positive Life

Serodiscordant: It's not a word you hear every day. It's a relationship in which one partner is HIV positive and the other partner is negative. It's the reality for many couples out there, including Peter and Kathy McLoyd, who had been longtime friends and colleagues until 2004, when they began dating and got married -- all in the same year.

While many believe HIV is a challenge too big for a couple to overcome, nothing could be further from the truth for the McLoyds. Together, they told Kathy's family of Peter's HIV status; together, they make sure Peter adheres to his medication; and together, they are trying to raise awareness around other couples like themselves. There is no distance here; their love is a glue stronger than HIV, and it is crystal clear that they are each other's hero. Now, if Kathy could just get Peter to stop smoking.

Inspiring stories of people living with HIV.

Olivia Ford: Peter, could you start by telling us how you first found out you were HIV positive?

Peter McLoyd: In 1996, I had quite a few emergency room visits to the hospital. I was diagnosed with bronchitis once and a couple of times with thrush. At that time, I was an active substance abuser, an IV drug user with heroin being my drug of choice. On one of those visits, the emergency room physician told me that thrush was an indication that I might be HIV infected. But he didn't offer me HIV testing or tell me where I could go to get tested. Eventually, I went and was tested in February of 1997. I tested positive for HIV and was actually diagnosed with AIDS shortly after that and was in the hospital for a couple of weeks. That was here in Chicago.

Olivia Ford: When you first got your diagnosis, what were you thinking and how were you feeling? Did you know anything about HIV?


Peter McLoyd: I knew a little bit about HIV. I knew that sharing needles was a risk factor. I knew that, in the course of the many years, over 25 years of using drugs and shooting heroin, that I had, in fact, at times shared syringes. So I knew that much. So it wasn't a big surprise that maybe I was HIV positive. What was shocking was that it was an AIDS diagnosis as well. That was a bit of a shock.

Olivia Ford: Were you two together at that point?

Kathy McLoyd: No, not at that point.

Olivia Ford: We'll definitely come to where you enter the frame in a little bit, Kathy. But, Peter, how did you first come to terms with your diagnosis? Who did you first tell?

Peter McLoyd: I told my family. I'm pretty close to my family, even though I had given them fits over the years, because of my issues with drugs and things like that. But I felt comfortable sharing it with them -- my sisters and brothers, and eventually my two children. It was a wake-up call in terms of the drug abuse. When I entered HIV care and treatment at what was then Cook County Hospital, I was also offered an opportunity to get engaged into substance abuse treatment, and I was really motivated. I was motivated to stop using drugs and I was motivated to get whatever treatment was available for HIV. That led me into doing some volunteer work and becoming a peer educator. And eventually, finding a full-time job doing this work.

Olivia Ford: What was the span of time between 1996, when you were coming down with these illnesses, and your actual HIV diagnosis, and then getting into recovery and then starting to work in the community?

Peter McLoyd: It was fairly quickly. I think I entered into care in the early spring of 1997. That summer, I was really motivated by some of the other individuals who I met, who were living with HIV, who were doing volunteer work, and who were peer educators. I thought it was something that I would really like to do. I had to go on disability right away, because I was so sick and I had lost a significant amount of weight. Once I started on antiretroviral therapy, it was amazing; within a couple of weeks, I felt different and I wanted to really do something productive with my time. In the fall of the first year, I started doing some volunteer work. The organization where I was receiving care opened its doors in October of 1998: the Ruth M. Rothstein CORE Center. I became a volunteer and a peer educator there. Eventually, I was hired for a full-time position as an outreach worker. That was the catalyst for not just doing outreach work, but being an advocate and developing my skills as an advocate and it just kind of mushroomed from there.

Olivia Ford: All right. When did you two meet each other?

Kathy McLoyd: Well, I came on board [at the CORE Center] in 2000. I met Peter in 2000. He was the first person I saw at the registration desk, actually. I thought, hmm, he's very nice. Then we just became friends because we worked together and we were colleagues. In 2004, we got together as a couple. We got married quite fast in 2004. I think we were engaged in February, and were married in June of the same year. So yeah, it was pretty fast. I had known him for four years as a friend, so I could bypass all the other dating stuff that people have to go through. He was my friend first; I knew all about him. He seemed to be a very nice man, a very knowledgeable advocate in the field of HIV. I learned a lot from him. And so it was just a smooth transition. Very easy.

Peter McLoyd: One of the things that really attracted me about Kathy, other than her great beauty, was that she was very passionate about her nursing and about the clients and the patients. She was a pediatric nurse at that time and she was very involved in not only the care of the children that she was taking care of, but their families. And so, she would come to me and ask me questions about resources and things like that. I found that very attractive. Then we had an opportunity to actually do some volunteer work in Africa. So we spent a couple of weeks in Kenya. I just really fell in love with Kathy in Kenya -- really working side by side with her as she was; she did triage nursing in a very rural area of Kenya. I literally fell in love with her in Africa and I wrote her a letter from Africa and mailed it to her house back here in the U.S. A long letter, telling her that I didn't want her to be uncomfortable, but this is just how I felt. And she could either ignore the letter or we could talk about it later when we got back to the States. When we were back in the U.S., I kept saying, "Did you get a letter?" And she said, "I had so much mail when I got back, that I haven't even looked at the mail." She was like, "Why are you asking?" I was like, "Oh, just curious." Then one day she came to work and she had this really odd look on her face, and I knew she must have gotten the letter.

Kathy McLoyd: I got the letter. [Laughs] I got the letter. So it just made sense. We talked about it. Yeah, we did. Because there are a lot of questions. We were co-workers. It's hard enough working in the same place and being partners, but if it didn't work out, what would that mean? I knew he was positive, so what would that mean? I had a lot of questions, but the person that I went to for the answers was Peter. We had a long talk. I was a nurse in the field, so I knew what precautions to take and I knew that HIV doesn't define him. He was the person that I wanted to be with and HIV was just, it was just there. You know? It was just something that was just there. Once I learned about it, and was comfortable with it, it didn't bother me. Probably one of the most challenging things is being the caregiver. I thought I had to take care of him all the time, but I think it was one of his providers who said, "He can take care of himself; you can relax a little." I needed to hear that. Going into a relationship as the negative person, plus being a nurse -- I'm a nurturer by trade -- I just felt I had to be there for him and do everything. He probably felt really smothered at one time. But I thought I had to do it. As time went on, I relaxed a lot. I still do for him a lot, I think. I make sure he takes his meds and eats correctly and I'm really trying to get him to stop smoking.

Peter McLoyd: Oh god ...

Kathy McLoyd: Please do not edit that.

Olivia Ford: I will not.

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This article was provided by TheBody.

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Elsa (dfasddd) Wed., Feb. 4, 2015 at 1:57 am UTC
Just before reading this I had decided that I am ALONE in this and so be it. Thank you for sharing your story, I am negative and found out my husband was positive after he was very ill. It was devastating for me. I have accepted it and cared for him. However it remains a secret among family, and I feel as if this is a lot for me to handle and need a friend who would possibly understand without the stigma. Those that know don't share my concerns for maintaining this a secret for the sake of my young kids. As I fear that they may find out before they understand the truth. I wouldn't even know how to help them when I'm having difficulty coping with it myself, much less dealing with people knowing about it.
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Comment by: Marie (Los Angeles) Sun., Nov. 16, 2014 at 4:11 pm UTC
Thank you so much for sharing. I think these kind of stories need to be told more often. It is an encouragement to the HIV community as well as helps fight negative stigmas. I too am in a heterosexual serodiscordant relationship. We have a beautiful son who will be turning 1 next month and will be getting married this upcoming March. I would love to talk with Kathy as I truly understood her needing to talk with others in the same position.
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Comment by: Wanjiru (Kenya) Fri., May. 23, 2014 at 11:22 am UTC
Thank you for sharing with us. Kindly assist me with Kathy's email; i would like to write to her personally.
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Comment by: Vera (Houston, Texas) Wed., Dec. 11, 2013 at 11:41 am UTC
To Peter and Kathy McLoyd, the married couple, she mention in her story she is an RN and knows what precautions to take, being Peter is HIV positive. Is she on antiverial meds, or does he use a condom, or does she use a woman condom, what about oral sex. The reason I ask is because I'm have always wondered. I will appreciate your answer very much. Thank you
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Comment by: mandy (south africa) Wed., Oct. 23, 2013 at 3:15 am UTC
it saddens me to see how much support overseas has for HIV couples, i am negative and just found out my husband has been positve for 3 years and i only found out by chance, i dont think he was ever going to tell me, but i have promised him i will stay with him even after the deception but i only have a client collegue that i chat to, he made me promise that i don not speak to anyone about it ever, i make sure he gets his tabs in time, i am very strict on him, but its hard because here in south africa support is only for the positive people not the partner that is negative, they dont want to talk to you when you have questions so its so hard at the moment, im fiting my own questions and fiting the deception all at once, he has closed himself emotionally away from me, he doesnt kiss me unless i make the point of goign to him, he doesnt hold my hand like he used to its like he has put awall around him, what do i do, he wont even talk to me about this, when i want to talk about why he never told me he starts a fite, he has tried to say i am a carrier and i gave it to him ive been tested twice now in theis year.
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Comment by: Dawn (lakeland florida) Fri., Feb. 1, 2013 at 9:22 am UTC
Thank you. I am postive, husband neg.and 16 yr.old son neg. My family and husband's family is not supportive. I have been sick for 17 yrs. Undetectable for 10. I have been sick so long I am on my last option before clinical trials. We do not talk about it. I go to doc. visits alone, our son does not know and my brother and mother in law have threatened to tell him. So I do not have anything to do with them. I do not tell anyone and have few friends. It is so hard sometimes I feel exhausted. Now my doc. has retired and I am scard to go to the main clinic here in my town because my husband works for a company that deals with the public and knows alot of people. You are so lucky to have the support and love that you have. I think dealing with the pressure of carring this burden alone makes it much worse. I just discovered this site and I am glad I did. It is nice to read stories of love and joy out of this awful mess that has been self inflicted. I had unprotected sex with someone once after my first husband. My current husband and I dated 1 1/2 years before I found out I was pregnant and positive. Thank god he was not infected. Thank you for sharing your story. God bless you and your family. It is nice to hear there are still nice and loving people in the world.
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Heath (Iowa) Wed., Feb. 6, 2013 at 7:42 pm UTC
Hang in there Dawn, you sound like an intelligent and caring woman. If your "relatives" cannot match the attributes that makes you a truly wonderful person, then move on and don't give them another thought. I think you are incredibly strong, and just reading your comment above makes me shake my head in amazement at how foolish and hateful some people can be. You have a disease and you're working hard at kicking its butt...there's nothing to be ashamed of! Intelligent and compassionate people should be praising you for this struggle. And believe me, here at, we are a community who thinks the world of you. Don't let othe ignorant people get you down, and don't be ashamed of something you never asked to get! Don't forget, even Jesus himself was hated and treated like dirt by people he cared for. Wish them well, but don't give them the time of day. Hope to meet someone like you some day to be close friends with. Take care, and be well.

Comment by: Sandra (YqeqzWZiWWg) Sun., Jan. 20, 2013 at 2:00 pm UTC
Jan, Thanks for your kind words. You had your RNY at St. V's in the same time frame I did, so we have been bari sisters for over 11 years. We adnteted all the support groups at St. V's together. Having this support system was and IS the glue that keeps me motivated, encouraged, committed, & passionate about my journey. You will still see me at meetings receiving as well as giving support. You & I have shared the highs, lows, laughed, cried, victories, & setbacks, but through it all; we never have to wear a mask to be accepted. We are truly family because no one understands our battle with obesity and food addiction like we do. I will never forget all the wonderful people I've met at St. V's that have helped me and supported me on my journey to health and happiness. I'm paying it forward now. Good luck to you, Jan. Would love to see you at a meeting again. Love you & big hugs. Kathy
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Comment by: thomas (nyc) Fri., Jan. 11, 2013 at 5:12 pm UTC
Thank you for sharing. I now believe I might have a chance to love again. Bless you both:)
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Comment by: Tamika (West Houston,Tx) Wed., Jan. 9, 2013 at 9:42 pm UTC
Their story is a true inspiration, I recently found out, my status, when my financ'e was killed in a accident, he didn't tell he was positive, I kept thinking, if he'd only informed me, we could have conquered this together!!
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