It's a tricky thing. When it comes to me professionally disclosing, I don't have any problem with that at all.
When it comes to being intimate with someone and intimate issues, that tends to be a little sticky. Sometimes there are people that you meet that you may have feelings for or emotions. They may not be HIV positive, but they're not asking the right questions, so I like to be honest with myself. I like to let people know what they're getting into.
I've seen HIV-positive people while I was doing outreach blatantly be with somebody and have unprotected sex with them. That really bothers me, and I don't want to fall into that category. I know it's easy to do when you're still in denial. I'm far beyond that. I believe in telling the truth. Honesty means a lot to me. Even if I may lose somebody I may want to have feelings for, if they can't deal with my status maybe it wasn't worth it at all. They couldn't deal with HIV and that shows me something about them. I would say, "Their loss and my gain."
How did you disclose to your most recent partner?
Well, I've known him for a long time, back and forth, back and forth. Matter of fact, he had heard from somebody and he called me and asked me. I said this is what is going on. He said, "I still care about you and love you, and I'm here to support you."
I asked him, "Have you been tested?"
He said, "I haven't been tested."
That's his bridge to cross, but I always encourage him to make sure that he knows what's going on, and to get tested.
So he knew before you got together, and it wasn't a problem for him?
No, it wasn't a problem. It wasn't a problem.
That's great. What would you say are the best and worst responses you've ever gotten from telling someone?
The worst response was that somebody just dropped the phone and picked it up and hung up on me. [Laughs.] Or I'm talking to someone, and all of sudden they say, "Oh!" and they start backing up and backing up and then they say, "Oh, I'll be right back," and then they are gone. When they came back they had washed their hands. I just started laughing. I was like, "You can't catch it from shaking hands. You can't catch it from being in my presence."
They were like, "Oh, no, no, no!" and I could see them turning red. I was like, "Wow!"
The best response was from my mother. She said, "No matter what, you'll always be my son and I'll love you." Her being a nurse, she said, "I kind of figured that was what it was. I prayed that that wasn't what it was, but no matter what, I'll always love you; no matter what."