Joe Ohmer, Bronx, N.Y.; Diagnosed in 2002
I feel like, if someone cannot accept me for who I am, my issues that affect me, then they're not worth having in my life. Mind you, I don't go down the street, meet somebody and say, "Hey, what have you got in the paper there? I'm HIV positive." No, it's not like that. But certainly, if it's somebody I'm thinking about having sex with, before that even comes to issue, they need to know that I'm HIV positive, so if they want to run away, they can, because I don't want the running away part to be just as we're getting intimate. I don't want to have to tell them after the fact, and them to get all hurt and afraid -- because there's still a lot of fear out there.
Also, if somebody feels like they're becoming a friend, with the possibility of being a good friend, they certainly deserve to know my status. If they are getting into my intimate circles where I'm going to tell them, you know, my hopes and dreams, yes, they deserve to know that I'm HIV positive.
I want them to be comfortable where they are. I want to be comfortable with them there. I don't want to have to be carrying this little secret around. I mean, I'm gay. I was in the closet long enough. I don't want to be in the closet about this. The other thing is: Say they accept my HIV status, but they themselves are afraid of HIV, and they're not knowledgeable about the transmission of it, then they can take their own precautions that make them comfortable. Some people still believe that they can catch it by kissing. And you know what? No, it can't be transmitted by kissing, but it is their right to choose not to kiss someone who's HIV positive because it scares them.
Now if I were kissing somebody, or we had been kissing intimately, exchanging saliva, and then weeks down the line I tell them I'm HIV positive, and then all of a sudden they get angry at me because I allowed them to kiss me, yes, that's an opportunity to educate them, but I've also betrayed them at the same time, in their eyes.