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Dating Positively

When Should We Disclose Our Status While Dating?

March/April 2008

Dating Positively: When Should We Disclose Our Status While Dating?
Dating can be exciting as well as exhausting, and being HIV-positive can add a whole new layer. I have been positive for almost three years and have been on many dates -- before and after my diagnosis. In fact, if your dates have been anything like mine, they can be likened to a job interview that ends with a root canal instead of a goodnight kiss. Yet I endure them in the hopes that the next one will be the last one and I will find my soul mate. Dates are all about selling ourselves and trying to find out if the person across the table from us is a good match. We laugh, flirt, and tell them our good qualities, while keeping our snoring and other bad habits out of the picture until the move-in date -- surprise! In those first few meetings we leave out the big stuff, our political and religious differences, our incomes as well as our views on Paris Hilton. But, when should we disclose our status?

Dating when you are HIV-positive is an entirely separate ball game. There is the inevitable, difficult and possibly awkward conversation when you have to tell them your status. Being positive is nothing to be ashamed about, but there is a very real possibility that the person with the perfect laugh and similar interests as your own might reject you. I made a promise to myself that I would tell them by the third date -- or earlier if it looks like he's making a break to steal third base. Sounds like a good plan, right? Maybe. The third date rule worked in the past, twice. Then recently after a third dinner with someone I was really beginning to care about, I disclosed my status and was rejected. Not for being positive, but for not being honest and upfront about my status.

So what do we do? Only date positive people? I know there are thousands of serodiscordant couples (couples where one is positive and the other negative) who are living happily ever after. Should we tell them on the first date, the second or the third? There is no easy answer, if there even is one. It is a highly personal and touchy decision to make. But it must be made.

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If you decide to go the route of meeting people in a similar position, one alternative is a dating website for HIV-positive individuals. Gay or straight you can register, log in and find that perfect someone, complete with a hundred great qualities and about the same number of T-cells. This can take the guesswork out of when to reveal your status. With everything we know about how HIV is transmitted, there should be little fear when having sex. Positive or negative, everyone should keep themselves and their partners protected. I once heard some great advice -- always assume the person you are having sex with is HIV-positive, even if they say they otherwise.

In the past I have dated HIV-negative people, who after some time were just too afraid to let go of their fear (or ignorance) to have a normal sex life. I have also dated negative people who understand the reality and risks and were okay to have a great, and creative, sex life. In my opinion, I think dating would be easier if our status was on the table from moment one. If nothing else we already have something in common -- and could possibly learn something new.

I now tell potential partners before or on date number one. Being HIV-positive has taught me more about myself than I cared to know at first, but I now relish in all the new knowledge. I used to be afraid of things that I now face head-on. Rejection still hurts, of course, but I find I am rejected less when I keep my head held high and speak the truth -- proud of who I am and how far I have come.

Living with HIV means we have to make some changes and that our lives will inevitably become different from before. I see my diagnosis date as a new birthday, and I've been lucky enough to have been able to celebrate my continued health every year with a ski trip -- although if you've ever seen me ski, the phrase "continued health" could be a thing of the past. But yes, dating can be hard and I don't see it becoming easier for anyone in the near future. We can only take care of ourselves, be proud of who we are and what we can do, and hope that the next root canal -- or date -- will be the last one.

Matthew Carter is a freelance writer originally from Cambridge, Massachusetts, now living in Chicago. He has been HIV-positive for three years.


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This article was provided by Positively Aware. It is a part of the publication Positively Aware. Visit Positively Aware's website to find out more about the publication.
 
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More on Sex, Dating & HIV for Gay Men

Reader Comments:

Comment by: Rach (Berkeley) Wed., Sep. 22, 2010 at 3:18 am EDT
I just disclosed to a guy after the third date. We had some great chemistry, but he is not willing to deal with the risk.. Im totally bummed, however I have had plenty who are willing to date me.. They are out there. However, it is a hit or miss. I really enjoyed what you had to say. Thank you :)
Now, all thats left with this guy is for me to seduce him hehehe ;)
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Comment by: young prof milw (Milwaukee, WI) Fri., Sep. 17, 2010 at 7:07 pm EDT
Has anyone found a good site for dating, not sex, dating other guys that are positive?
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Replies to this comment:
Comment by: Positive Dating Network (Los Angeles, CA) Fri., Apr. 1, 2011 at 1:07 pm EDT
There sure is. It's called The Positive Dating Network. It is gay owned/operated, free to join, and has hundreds of thousands of active member profiles. Gay, straight, or Bi, blue, green, or purple, it doesn't matter. All are welcome. http://www.PositiveDatingNetwork.net


Comment by: fightingbull (Los Angeles, CA) Thu., Oct. 1, 2009 at 7:36 pm EDT
I have been poz for a year and two months now. I was careless and decided to "fall in love" with a guy who did not disclose his status to me when we started dating. However, I did not ask because I was "head over hills" with him and ignorant of the risk I was taking. We were together for 3 years when I found out he was on a chat site for sex. I went nuts and we broke up. I didnt get sick until about four months after we broke up. When I went to see my doctor he sent me to be tested and I tested positive. (I didnt have sex with anyone except my lover). I now feel it is in the best interest of the person whom I date to know my status right off the bat! I am not a very shy person and it is easier for me to come out with it because I know how I felt when I found out after being infected by someone else without being told. I believe in honesty and refuse to be the cause of anyone else's pain.
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Comment by: David (Oklahoma) Mon., Jun. 8, 2009 at 12:09 am EDT
First of all I am negative, but my partner Dave isn't I know cute huh Dave and Dave. Let me tell you he was honest from the very beginning and that is all the reason i never let status get in my way of our relationship sexually or socially. He is the greatest thing that has ever happened to me in any form. When we first met sex was not an object of our attraction at first it was friends and a movie, soon we realized that we were too much alike, we even caught ourselves finishing sentences and shouting the same things simultaneously at movies. I knew then that i couldn't be Dave's friend i wanted to be with him forever. We have only dated for a few short months but i wake up and he is all i think about and likewise on my way to sleep. I never believed in soul mates before, and I never thought mine would have HIV but he does and he's honest and I love him.
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Comment by: joel f (minnneapolis, mn ) Thu., Jun. 4, 2009 at 4:16 pm EDT
thanks for the article it was good and helped me out in many ways, one of my biggest things is the fear of getting rejected so thanks again,
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Comment by: A1 (Gary, IN) Sat., May. 16, 2009 at 12:14 am EDT
Well I just found out today that I am positive and I am in a relationship. I am very very scared. I did tell him and he took it very well told me that just because I am Positive does not mean the end of the world. I can honestly say that I am scared out of my mind but I am going to try my best to stay strong. One thing I can say is that I am blessed to have family that has my back they are telling me that they are ok with it and they still love me ....now just a little more. I think my Lover is a little nervouse but he still tells me so far that he loves me unconditionally. Does anyone have any advice about how to cope? BE BLESSED!!!
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Comment by: k f (sacramento, ca) Wed., Apr. 29, 2009 at 1:59 pm EDT
I just started to see a guy in S.F. who is positive, this isn't my first time in this situation. I really like this guy and we did use protection, but it is scary nontheless. I have mixed feeling about what to do and how do approach them. I know I would date someone who is positive (my roommate is positive and my other roommate is dating someone who is positive as well) I feel that I couldn't blame them for a situation that happened. I don't want to make sex something sterial but I do always want to protect myself. How might I achieve this besides using condoms during sex, what about oral sex or even hand jobs. Knowing that it is a virus and needs to be transmitted before the host dies i.e. blood and semen as long as I don't have cuts in my mouth or hands is that considered safe. It is just a very confusing situation and I am not sure what to do.
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Comment by: Nick (Boston, MA) Mon., Apr. 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm EDT
Hello,
I am 28 and I tested hiv+ in Oct 08. It's now been 9 months since. It hasn't been easy dating in boston, now add HIV to it and it's almost impossible. But I find going to support groups and I got a job in a A.S.0 (aids service org) in cambridge, ma. i'm finding it helps being around people who are also poz. It doesn't change the dating or sex part of my life but it does help me keep busy and active in the community.
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Comment by: John (Los Angeles) Sun., Jan. 25, 2009 at 2:08 am EST
I just found out two days ago that I'm HIV positive. I'm numb. Each morning I wake up thinking maybe it was a dream.

My boyfriend and I have played around a bit, always with each other, always safe.

Yesterday I took him to get tested to find out he is negative. This morning he woke up with a serious flu, same symptoms I had just about 4 weeks ago. This is the most horrible thing I have ever gone through. I know it's going to get better, but can't imagine how I'm going to wake up every day and be okay with this. As stupid as it sounds, I truly truly never thought this could happen to me.
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Comment by: joel (San Doegp, CA) Sat., Jan. 24, 2009 at 1:42 am EST
Tomorrow Jan 24, 2009, will be 2 months that i have found out I am POZ, 2 weeks before finding out my BF of 3 yrs had broken up with me. After I found out i was Poz, I told him, It was hard to tell him and to deal with the fact that I am now POZ. I thought I saw it as a positive characteristic, that maybe it will get us to be a lot closer and be back with me, but he still decided to go with the other guy he had meet. so, yes, I feel that i won't be able to date.
I been meeting new people, but i can't seem to find the time to tell them...


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Comment by: Tony (Columbus, OH) Thu., Jan. 22, 2009 at 11:15 am EST
I am a 23 year old gay man and just found out I am positive. I told my bf and not sure if he is going to leave me or not. If he does things will be hard. How long should you wait to start dating again? Any information would be helpful ohio182003@yahoo.com
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Comment by: M (Minneapolis MN) Fri., Nov. 28, 2008 at 10:44 am EST
It's hard to disclose here. A friend told me that people here will have sex with a poz person but not date one. I refuse to believe this. I've been poz nearly 3 years and its not getting much easier. Recently met a guy and j/o with him before disclosure (on 3rd date) I now have to disclose. Not sure where to go or what will happen from here. All I can hope is that with life comes some good graces with all this crap we have to wade through.
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Comment by: cynthia Mon., Jul. 21, 2008 at 9:42 am EDT
well, i'm a 35 yr old woman, been poz 4 the past 6 years now, in good health. I just wanna give up relationships once and for all. I had been single & celibate for a year. i recently met a guy a month and a half ago, it's been good but we had not engaged into sex as yet, being the true and honest person that i am i disclosed my status to him 3 days ago because we were both feeling the edge of having sex & he had given me an indication that he wanted a long term thing and we were gonna move in together, so i didn't wanna manipulate the situation by just accepting the keys to his place knowing very well what my situation was. i know it's still early to say he's rejected me but the signs are there. He hasn't contacted me since, and i know even if he said he'll be foolish to leave me about being so honest with him, i know he was just buying my face and being nice. i'm hurting so bad coz i know i'll never see him again after this. but if i had to tell a potential partner about my status i would do it again. Telling the truth about who you really are is such a genuinely liberating experience and I have no regrets that i did.
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Comment by: Jason Thu., Jul. 17, 2008 at 5:51 pm EDT
Matthew, you are adorable! I have been positive now since October 2007 and have ran into all sorts of situations, good and bad, regarding my status. Anywho, wish you were here in Knoxville, TN! izod946@yahoo.com
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Comment by: shaun Fri., Jul. 4, 2008 at 11:07 pm EDT
Sterling~having HIV is not necessarily the death sentence it once was. Before you doom us all to die, educate yourself. Death is ugly no matter which way you look at it. As I see it, we will all die one day from something horrible. I watched my mother die of lung cancer and it was just as punishing. I am sorry for your husbands mistake, but I am more than sure he is killing himself inside more than the disease itself.
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Comment by: NMK Fri., Jul. 4, 2008 at 3:04 am EDT
I met my boy friend in 2001 in UK while I was in a working holiday visa. I am a South African woman and he is English. When I met him I didn't know about my status but I was a bit scared to take the test as well as you all know the out break in SA. We went out for two until I have visa problem so we had problems in deciding whether to get married becuase of this in other stay together but as well I had a child that I left in SA. We couldn't get married we didnt know each other very. We needed to take the HIV test as well, but I wasn't ready to find out anything. I know it wasn't a right thing to do but I was really scared to find out and didn't know how I was going to deal with it as well and what if I was and I am the one who have infected him. I couldn't live with it. I went back to SA. We kept communicated. After three in SA I had a lump behind my ear then every thing was obvious I needed to this before its too late and I did then I find out it was true you what I wasnt so worried about myself that much but I was worried about him. It's strange isn't, I didnt know how he was going to handle this. In the end I told him. I was so relieved that he is negative. We haven't see each other for four yrs now but we still talk via the internet and we flirt and talk like people who are making love here BUT the only problem is I want more then this, I want to be with him like normal people. Do I need a partner that I can see everyday, am I selfish for asking or am I stupid. I need you comment on this.
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Comment by: Sterling Thu., Jul. 3, 2008 at 8:59 am EDT
My Husband contracted AIDS from cheating with a woman who was HIV positive. She knowlingly let him touch her and now a 20 year marriage is over. I feel that anyone who goes out and intentionly give this disease to another person is a murderer! I am getting a divorce because of this woman. I have seen a lot of my friends die from this disease, and it is one of the most horrific deaths one can endure! I will pray for each and everyone of you that has this disease, and hope GOD has mercy on your souls.
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Comment by: Drew Wed., Jul. 2, 2008 at 1:59 pm EDT
Great article. Great story. Glad to see that you were able to gain enough confidence to tell the guys you date, on the first date, so there are no surprises later. And if he wants to bail, he can do it before any emotional connections are made. I am neg but the guy I like is poz (for 2 years now). We met and he told me right then and there what his situation was. I was turned on by his honesty and his confidence. I would be the first guy he's dated since his diagnosis. So we began to date. In the beginning things were great! We kissed, we cuddled, we cooked for other, etc. I really felt like he wanted to build a serious romantic relationship. Then one day maybe a month later he did a complete 180. Told me how he wasn't ready to be so serious, how he wasn't comfortable with all the affection that I provide, that it was moving too fast for him, even though we was extremely comfortable. This of course took me by surprise and confused me to the tenth power. I didn't know, and still don't know if it was something I did or if he's just fearful of trusting another person. it has been 2 years since he's been close to anyone and the last person he was close to lied to him. so I want to say it's the latter. but all in all I offer my support to him. i always tell him that if he needs to talk I'm there for him and that if he ever decides that he wants to take thing further, that I'm not afraid of him.. and that he shouldn't be afraid of me, or of infecting me. I just want him and all HIV+ people to know that someone will love you regardless of your status and i know its hard, but try and let your guard down because you may the one you need away.
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Comment by: mouse Wed., Jul. 2, 2008 at 10:08 am EDT
I am neg and my guy is poz.
everyday is a struggle to us. its never never easy.
At times,i am very angry and nasty towards him. But i still love him so much. And thats why i am still with him. I hope and pray for a cure or a better treatment everyday.
No one deserve this disease and we would like to live simple and like everyone else does.

Bless All and take care.
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Comment by: Song to the Siren Tue., Jul. 1, 2008 at 11:34 am EDT
Well I don't feel worthless, but am struggling to find meaning in my life - in a more profound way than I have ever before - there are still worthwhile contributions you can make to this mortal coil that anyone with HIV and single can make while you're looking for the right partner...plant some flowers, plant a tree, that's life enhancing, that's adding to nature's bounty, that improves this world, that adds to the beauty and fullness of things! I've decided I'm going to do some voluntary work with a homeless hostel - there's always someone worse off than you...

How many million die in other countries without medications? There's always someone else worse off...

But a partner would improve my life instantly..
It was difficult enough just being a gay male.. but post diagnosis it's a different world

It's other people I've always seemed to have fallen foul of. Again though this site is fantastic with it's comprehensive range of topics. Thank you to whoever is maintaining it.

B.R. I wouldn't allow yourself to feel bad - you need to love yourself for others to be attracted to you.
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Comment by: mischa Tue., Jul. 1, 2008 at 10:45 am EDT
helo everyone im a nurse doing research and i happen to be in this site while surfing..
keep up the faith..... we have such a great God.. whose gonna be there for us// pray harder// he will always be with us till the end of time.. we may not know his purpose.. God bless u all...
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Comment by: Kate Mon., Jun. 30, 2008 at 11:42 pm EDT
hey B.R., there are so many positive women looking for guys I can't believe you're feeling so depressed! Have you tried registering on the bbs here at thebody? I have met some amazing people. There are also socials in different cities for heteros. There is hope, but you have to believe in it!
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Comment by: A.J Mon., Jun. 30, 2008 at 1:52 pm EDT
24. Had the knowledge for 2 years. Was born postive and i'm not very good at this. If i care about someone at all and want the best for them, I let them know as soon as i notice they are picking interest in me. That way they know what they are walking into, or save time and not go there.
I also think first date is better. I've not been on one though.
At the momment i tell them as soon as there are signs and i happen to like them. That way, i don't engage my heart in something that stands no chance of succeeding. Don't want to deal with the pain of break up coz of my status.
But i actually want to get a boy friend soon or later.
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Comment by: B.R. Mon., Jun. 30, 2008 at 10:30 am EDT
I'm a hetro male and havn't had sex in eight years. I've just given up. I feel like a walking vile of poison. Death seems more attractive everyday. There's nothing here for me now.
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Comment by: Song to the Siren Mon., Jun. 30, 2008 at 3:54 am EDT
I came to learn of my HIV status by a less common route these days. I'm finding this site invaluable. I need to learn fast. I live alone, and have also been treated for cancer. I could really do with the support of a partner but think this will prove difficult.. so like I say I need to learn fast.

I've already had personal experiences of the advantage-taking and politics of disclosure of my status by others. My oncologist for example (a gay male should have been more understanding) took it upon himself to inform my dentist of my status who now declines to treat me - though of course without letting me know the real reason 'Have you anything else?' 'I'd prefer to let the hospital treat you' But once the chemo brain wears off you piece together the jigsaw of informants.

There are so many other complications that I won't go into here. But my situation is difficult and thank god for this site!

My epidemiologists of course are delighted with another new patient.. Where I live there are not many postives... The local gay scene is a poisoned pit of jealously and bitterness and malicious disclosure even amongst 'friends'. I'd up sticks and leave except for the international travel bans and my new reliance on the hiv meds to stay alive.

I feel I'm trapped in a way I wasn't before.. But this site is a god send -

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Comment by: Scared & straight Sun., Jun. 29, 2008 at 3:16 pm EDT
Tim - A big laugh and appreciation of your inappropriate humor! Also, agree with the post that rejection is a possibility whether it is because of HIV or not. Relationships, to me, are not a panacea to make me whole, taken me a long time to get that. They are an opportunity to give care rather than receive, sorry my soap-box. Finally, agree w/posts discussing educating your partner so they have a true understanding of size risks and all that is involved. Best wishes to all.
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Comment by: JK Sat., Jun. 28, 2008 at 9:56 pm EDT
Can't fathom a disclosure here in ghana.I've always protected myself to avoid re-infection. Disclosure? Not thought of it yet.
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Comment by: poz45 Sat., Jun. 28, 2008 at 10:59 am EDT
Ive been positive for 5 years, fortunately non-progressor. When it comes to dating or sex, I start by telling them Im positive. Id rather be straight forward and get rejected, rather than dealing with the drama later if they are not into it. For the most part, a lot of guys are ok with it and, even if they arent, they like the honesty.
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Comment by: Pat Fri., Jun. 27, 2008 at 5:39 am EDT
I work in the field of HIV/AIDS, but only recently realised how I've never really internalised HIV for myself. I'm HIV- and when faced with the question: "Would you date someone with HIV?", I had to pause. I can therefore understand how hard it is for PLWH to deal with the whole dating issue on top of their status. My best wishes to all.
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Comment by: Philipina. Fri., Jun. 27, 2008 at 3:35 am EDT
I think rejection will always be there, It doesn't matter you are positive or negative. I got married in 2002 to someone whom has always been positive. he didn't tell me about his condition just because he was scared to be rejected. I found out about his situation 2 month after our wedding, I went for a test and I was in the very situation. I was very angry with him and I kept on blaming him for giving me this diseases. I would have still married him with his hiv+ condition. He should have just told me. I blamed him day and night till he died 5month after our wedding. But if he would have spoken to me at first, he would have been alive till date. Since then, I never been rejected. If someone wants any relationship, the first thing I will tell him is my condition, I never been rejected and am very proud of myself. I still the very same beautiful lady, I don't see why I should lie about my status. I am back with my ex, just because I told him all the truth. He is negative but we are enjoying life together. I will advice you all not to wait for the second or third date.
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Comment by: Apple Fri., Jun. 27, 2008 at 12:58 am EDT
I am 32 yrs old and was diagnosed with HIV 3 yrs ago. Initially I only dated the person whom infected me because it was easier than dealing with rejection from someone that was negative. Since then I have disclosed my status to two different men prior to being intimate and they both decided to have safe sex with me. My daughter's father is the man I love and want to share my life with so I revealed my status to him. He admits being scared at first but says that he loves me too much to walk away and wants to be educated. I don't believe that he is really ok with my diagnosis because he just came home from jail more than 3 weeks ago and has not attempted to touch me in an intimate way. I really don't know when it is the right time to disclose whether it be before dating, the first or second date but I definitely feel it should be before any sexual contact. It is important to me to protect other people and let them choose how to live their life. Rejection is an unfortunate part of life that nobody wants to face but the fact remains that people who are neg. are rejected too for whatever reason but personally I feel better when I am honest. I think honesty is the best policy. I know that lies only hurt people and tend to create a snowball effect that sometimes causes irreversible damage. There is that special someone out there for everyone HIV+ or negative
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Comment by: David Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 8:46 pm EDT
I am HIV positive and have been for over 14 years. To date my viral load is undetectable due to my faith in God and my meds. I also have walls that I have built up. I am single male and would love to have a companion in my life. I have to remind my self everyday that if I do meet that special person it should not matter about my status. Be loved for who you are unconditionally. I was dating this guy about 2 years ago and we became very close. I waited to tell him 2 months after we started to see each other that I was HIV positive and that my viral load was undetectable. We always had safe sex. My partner had a very, very hard time with the information I had given him about my status. He rejected my in a second and wanted nothing to do with me. He said that he loved me and was so happy. this was before I broke the news. I wanted so much for him to understand my position and how I felt. He wanted nothing to do with me. I realized that he had no knowledge or any understanding about HIV OR AIDS. (His ignorance.) He waited 6 months to get tested. The test came back negative. During that period of 6 months I tried to talk with him to see how he was doing, all he did was yell at me and tell me that I had ruined his life. I felt horrible.. I apologized. Bottom line is this. This guy did not deserve me at all. His ignorance got the best of him, knowledge is everything...... If you really love someone , love them unconditionally, no matter what. Life is too short. HIV has become a label.... Very sad.
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Comment by: Shaun Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 6:19 pm EDT
I disclose immediately. If they can't handle it, it just isn't mean to be. Next?
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Comment by: Christa Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 4:37 pm EDT
I'm a HIV+ straight female diagnosed 18 yrs ago. I never received the advice "always assume the person you are having sex with is HIV+, even if they say otherwise". I assumed everyone was STD free unless they said otherwise. That assumption changed my life forever. After my diagnosis I was ready to live the rest of my SHORT life alone because nobody would be involved with a HIV+ person. As I became more educated about HIV I also learned more about myself. I accepted myself & my status. I determined that if others can't do the same they wouldn't be right for me either way. Over the yrs, medical advancements have provided me with a way to stay healthy & I now LIVE with HIV instead of dying from it. I believe in disclosure prior to any action that might put someone else at risk. The time to disclose is when I sense that I may want to take a relationship to a sexual level. The risk of rejection is always a possibility during a relationship, HIV+ or not. Being accepted for who I am is the most important thing. Living in fear of being rejected is not an option. I never want to ask "what if". I agree that it is ok to let someone get to know me before discloser. That way if they choose to walk away they are 100% aware of WHOM they are walking away from. Being HIV+ does not prevent one from enjoying sex. It just requires one to be educated, prepared, & precautious; which everyone should be. Always use condoms for intercourse, condoms & dental dams for oral sex & being aware of open sores/wounds on yourself & your partner is also a basic rule. Being HIV+ has taught me to respect myself and my body enough to ask questions & to be honest. This has made my sex life better not worse. Being open & honest with a person before sex makes it so much better because you share respect! Disclosure is a personal issue. Disclose when you are comfortable but prior to placing someone at risk is the key. You must respect yourself before you can be respected by others.
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Comment by: pierre Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 2:38 pm EDT
I am positive for almost 24 years. When I met my first boyfriend, there was no cure, no hope and I told him after a few weeks...I found that very difficult as I not only feared rejection but felt that I had been lying. We stayed together 10 years and he stayed negative. I then spent 2 years alone and dating and resolved that I would always disclose my status on the first date, before sex, even if only a casual encounter, as we never know where it will lead and I did not want to face having to tell a potential long term relation that I had been hiding my HIV status... and it happened I met a guy 18 years younger than me, told him my status before we had sex and long and behold he became a life time partner; we just celebrated 10 years together now, and he still is negative.
I advocate to tell a potential encounter or potential boyfriend your status before having sex, not only because it is easier than after, but also because it is a way of accepting yourself, accepting that what you have is nothing to be ashamed of...and is the potential boyfriend can not accept your status, you might as well know earlier than later when you are really in love....
Rejection? it has happened only once where the person told me he was too scared of AIDS to have sex with me; we parted, him respecting me for having disclosed, me accepting that it is his right...no hard feeling.
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Comment by: Tim Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 2:27 pm EDT
I usually disclose right in the middle of bare backing! You'd be amazed at how badly some people react!

Sorry, but I thought I'd inject a little inappropriate humor into a painful topic. Generally, I find the earlier I disclose my status the better: it probably puts a disproportionate burden on the person receiving the news -- and has probably contributed to a fair number of first dates becoming last dates, as well -- but the alternatives (which all stink) mean that I carry around this piece of information like a ticking emotional time bomb. Past experience (for me, anyway) indicates that it gets harder to disclose the longer I wait, instead of easier.

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Comment by: Tawny Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 12:37 pm EDT
I am 32 and hiv+/4 years. It is very difficult for me to determine when I should share my status. I was dating someone for a few months before I disclosed my status. We had been intimate already, but we had safe sex. When I did tell him, naturally he was angry but he stayed with me for a while. He said he could accept it, but I know he couldn't because we were never intimate after that. Eventually we broke up, but remain good friends. He says, that my status had nothing to do with it, but I know it does. The next guy I dated, I told him upfront. It didn't seem to bother her. We ended up getting engaged and were intimate quite often. But in the end, he wasn't able to commit or marry a hiv+ person. So he ended it. Fortunate for me, he turned out to be crazy as hell! I think the fact that my daugher was born without being positive (although I was already infected while carrying her), kind of made them explore the possibility of the relationship working. Other than that, I've never disclosed my status. I just don't date. But hey, I'm getting older. I want to get married and I want to have SEX! I'm long over due.
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Comment by: Carleton Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 12:14 pm EDT
in belle's comment above to you i could not see any better way to put her advice than to be educated.for this is what we all need to be. The gentleman who rejected you was not looking for what you had to offer and that was honesty and his own self-centeredness. sure you two may have laughed and chatted together but if was not unfront what you both were looking for.We all need somebody but not everybody. True love and trust takes time and if you just be this to yourself all will be well. I believe to have a friend you be love yourself and be your own best friend first.Be true to yourself and thyself be true to.I am living with HIV and have friends both pos/neg and practice healthy relationships with all and that it's not all about the bedroom. Remember this my friend you are loved in more ways than you think and tho i don't personally know you i have a great deal of respect and admiration for you for your expression in this article. My prayers are for you and i truly believe that special someone will come just continue to be who you are and be patience.love and peace to you.
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Comment by: Gio Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 10:41 am EDT
I'm HIV+ and have become fond of on-line venues that allow me to disclose as part of my profile. That way, assuming men are looking at more than my stunning good looks =) they can make a decision that's comfortable for them. I remind myself that as uncomfortable as disclosure is for me, it might also be a trying situation for them.

As for the guy mentioned in the article who was fine with dating a poz man, but broke things off because the author waited until the 3rd date to fess up.... BS. Any mature person with the vaguest sense of the difficulties would understand the tough situation a positive guy is in. The "honesty" issue is just a convenient out. (unless the author failed to mention they had already had sex....)
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Comment by: Belle Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 10:33 am EDT
I am a neg female dating a pos male. We've been together for almost a year and he disclosed right off the hop. We'd met at my office - there was instant mutual attraction. We were both in relationships at the time but no lines were crossed, though at that point he was not pos. We lost touch for two years (that's when he was infected) and via internet, reconnected and that's when he disclosed. I was shocked at first and scared but not so scared that I chose not to explore what I'd wanted to since meeting him. We had both ended the relationships we were in previously so there was nothing stopping us from getting together, so we did. I have made a point to educate myself more than ever and become an advocate for saver sex practices and HIV/AIDS education. I am so thankful for every day I get to spend with him. Our sex life is great, we're creative and it's just as enjoyable (if not more) as with someone who's neg.

My views - HIV does not make you the person that you are, and if a neg rejects a pos because of their status, they are shallow, self-centered and not worth your time.

My advice - Don't dispair! :) You will find that special someone. I know I might sound like an "Idealist" but my boyfriend felt that after his pos diagnosis, he would never love or be loved again; he was wrong.
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Comment by: Nate Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 8:51 am EDT
Having lived in the same cities as the author, I think it is important to note there's also a certain unspoken cultural expectation. Chicago is almost definitely a first date or before city whereas metro-Boston seems more like a first handful of dates area. Rejection sucks, but I think it's important to be honest and upfront about not only status, but also other vital aspects of one's personality. Who would rather waste time on something that ultimately won't work out than spend that same time with your friends and colleagues?
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Comment by: Chuck Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 7:56 am EDT
I'm negative and my boyfriend is poz. He told me up front. Although it was a risk for him, that disclosure demonstrated his integrity and allowed me to trust that he was as interested in safe sex as I. It really helped lay a good foundation for what we both hope is a future that includes growing old together! From my perspective, guys, tell them up front. If they cut and run, it is YOU who is better off!
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Comment by: Mark Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 7:23 am EDT
The third date rule isnīt a bad one, except that if the subject of HIV comes up in the conversation in any way before then, you should disclose at that point, or itīs more awkward later. If he asks you directly, or indirectly by saying something like "Iīm hiv-", you should disclose. Before you head to the bedroom (and not as youīre crawling into bed) you should disclose. Having said that, I once dated a guy who from time to time would say how lucky he was to have a good job, be healthy, etc. Well, I am healthy too although hiv+, so I just didnīt say anything. We slept together, kissed a bit and cuddled for a few weeks before I finally told him I was hiv+. I had waited too late--it had become very awkward to disclose. He was very surprised but took it well, said he was wondering if we were ever going to have sex and was I really attracted to him or not. He didnīt want to date a positive guy, but weīve remained friends--even with occasional benefits lol.
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Comment by: Living Positively Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 5:06 am EDT
I was diagnosed 3 yrs ago and thought I would never love again. Since then I built rigid walls so I would not be hurt. I have subsequently learnt that maintaining such a lifestyle can indeed be lonely so I made a few changes. I embraced my diagnosis from day one and made a decision that I would always maintain a healthy lifestyle. I have relocated to a new city, which marked a new beginning for me and after two years started dating again. As a rule I disclose my status to those who have expressed a mutual interest. I am now dating someone that has accepted me for me and we have a relationship based on mutual trust & honesty. We talk about the illness and this has also helped in terms of educating my negative partner. I guess what I am trying to say is that I believe there will be someone who will not be afraid of getting involved with a positive person (this discussion thread is testimony to that). And for those who choose not to get involved with you based on your status, remember you too have a choice so you can reject them.
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Comment by: x Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 3:52 am EDT
Declaring one's status is always difficult and I have held out on doing so until I have gotten to know the person well and understand their position on HIV. I disclosed to a negative boyfriend, who later proposed and claimed to accept me with it. Somewhere along the way, he decided to break off the engagement, and went around telling everyone he left me because I was HIV+ as if he hadn't known all along. Since then I have been reluctant in telling people about my status. Right now I have met the most amazing person, and would really like them to get to know the real me very well before I can tell him. My reason for delaying this is because I would like them to get to know and love the person that I am, so he can look beyond my HIV status when I get around to telling him. But then again, it just postpones the inevitable if he is going to reject me all the same. So I agree with Jonas, it is easier said then done.
What scares me the most about declaring straight away is that when you do get rejected, there goes yet another person who knows your status and you have no idea how he/she will decide to use that information.
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Comment by: song Thu., Jun. 26, 2008 at 3:40 am EDT
I have boyfriend HIV+ and I am negative. He told me and I was shocked for moment. I do not run away from him, but I love him more each day. I read all medicine journal and update all medication. I do care for him all my heart and hope you do not give up to find your soul mate. I learn more about HIV+ and deal with matter to education myself. I think it is important to love and care about who he is. I think one day you will find the most sweet person who will love you as who you are.
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Comment by: Charlie Wed., Jun. 25, 2008 at 11:50 pm EDT
I found out my partner was HIV+ abut a week and half after we started dating. We were going out to dinner when he told me and said if I left he would understand. I got to ask the question, who, where, when, then I asked him to teach me to stay safe. That was 11 years ago. I have been able to get great jobs in the field of HIV education and training effective interventions.

If I had walked out that night, I hate to think what my life would be like. I was foolish enough to think "IT" wouldn't happen to me, I learned fast. I have been able to work with married men who have sex with men to keep them safe, but more so to keep the unsuspecting wife safe as well.

Having been married myself, I understand where others are at. Ater dating for a year I moved in followed by my daughter a week later. These have been the greatest years of my life, we have a great home, a summer home on a lake, may daughter is getting her PHD in a field that she can work with the effects of culture and religion that could put men at risk.

The key to understanding HIV is to educate oneself, to understand risks and know what your personal level of risk is. To be negative after 11 years, to have a partner that has enhanced both my personal and professional life and to inspire a child to want to help fight this battle is a rewarding life experience . I feel truly blessed. Had I turned an run I would more than likely be struggling, searching for myself.
More so I would have missed out on a qulity of life that is so great.

I would encourage anyone to try a relationship with someone who is HIV+, the key is reading, learning about HIV, and have open, honest conversations.

I also hope HIV+ people are careful when they disclose, once you put it out there, you can't take it back and you have no control with what others do with the information. But for a Healthy honest Relationship disclosure is the key to trust and a good working relationship. It works for me!
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Comment by: John Wed., Jun. 25, 2008 at 11:07 pm EDT
About 10 weeks into a relationship, my boyfriend tested positive. We were both very upset, me almost more than him, since I was older and had lived through the 80s and 90s when people I knew were dying by the week.

Two years later, his status is completely irrelevant. I got educated about HIV today by joining an NIH study (I live near DC). We also found the best HIV doctor in the region. He has been on the medicine for a year, 100% adherence and undetectable.

Bottom line, the biggest mistake I would have made in my life would have been fleeing in fear 2 years ago. The stigma MUST come to an end. A boyfriend with HIV? Makes no difference. We are going to Las Vegas later this summer and taking a side trip to California to join the gay marriage movement!
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Comment by: billy se-texas Wed., Jun. 25, 2008 at 10:48 pm EDT
i've been with hiv+ 31/2 yrs. and thinking of dating. sure gives me thing 2 try as i'm new with this.being alone has made this life mighty hard.
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Comment by: straight & scared Wed., Jun. 25, 2008 at 10:31 pm EDT
Wanted to open a discussion regarding hetero dating. I'm a poz male and even though I live in a city over 1MM population discussing my status earlier rather than later seems unwise because of word getting around to employers and other potential female mates. In some ways it may be equivalent to telling someone who is probably uninformed about HIV, "Hey I have terminal cancer and you could get it too! So how bout we go out again next wkend?" My point is disclosure can have serious repercussions and the disease is very misunderstood stereo-typically in the hetero-realm. Thus, it seems to me the best possible path would be to spend time getting to know someone and saying upfront that being physically intimate is not something you take lightly and that there will need to be serious discussion before that bridge is crossed. That would buy me time to determine if that person is someone worth risking my disclosure on. I know it may sound like being a boy-scout but my economic security and piece of mind are NOW worth more to me than a a fling. Would be interested to hear other's experiences. Best wishes to all.
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Comment by: Fred Wed., Jun. 25, 2008 at 9:49 pm EDT
I like the idea of you celebrating your diagnosis date as you celebrate your birthday. I do meditation every day and think of that time when my body "welcomed" HIV. I've learned to accept in a non-judgmental way all of my past that has led me into the beauty of the present moment. Getting to such an interior space has come only through discipline and intentionality, but it is completely grace when you arrive.
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Comment by: woofda9 Wed., Jun. 25, 2008 at 9:40 pm EDT
I liked the intent of this article, yet, still find myself angry when I do get rejected by someone because of my status. It is so ironic that gay men now clamor for bare back sex videos, yet, when it comes to dating a real human they get all freaked out because you are positive, and, want to have safe sex. It seems that sex is more important to us men than common interests, shared goals and dreams, and, spiritual and emotional compatibility. Even sadder is knowing how difficult it is to maintain a relationship in this world of internet cheaters and "open relationships" and that most male male relationships have very short lifespans. Sero sorting and status revealing dominate what should be more about can we grow and live together and be happier as a couple than as two single individuals.
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Comment by: Jonas Wed., Jun. 25, 2008 at 9:01 pm EDT
Easier said than done...
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Comment by: David Wed., Jun. 25, 2008 at 8:57 pm EDT
I don't think there's anything wrong with something like the "third date" rule - it's a personal choice. Anyone that would reject you (or me) for waiting until the third date to disclose would have rejected you just as readily on the first date. The excuse that "you should have told me up front" is just that - an excuse.

I have usually used the "third date" rule because I wanted to give my date a chance to see me as a person, not just immediately reject me on the basis of my HIV. Being rejected hurts, and I don't mind making it a little tougher on someone by making them get to know me a little bit first. At worst, you waste a few hours of your time on someone that will reject you anyway.
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