Florida: Rejection Painful for Gay Men With HIV

At a recent group therapy session at the Miami Beach Community Health Center, gay men living with HIV/AIDS discussed the topic of serostatus disclosure. The men agreed that the potential for rejection after revealing one's status to a potential partner is daunting.

One of the men said he prefers to "get it over with" on the first date. If he is immediately rejected, it will hurt less than if he had been emotionally involved, he said. Another said he prefers that his partner get to know him before he shares such personal information, even if it makes rejection more painful.

"It is a struggle for them, because on the one hand they want to be responsible, but on the other they want to protect themselves from breaching confidentiality and rejection," noted Linda Simon, the program's psychotherapist.

Some of the men spoke of the discrimination they feel within their own community. "Gay people as a minority complain that they are discriminated against, but within a large part of the gay community they discriminate against those of us who have HIV, so there is a double standard," said one member of the group who has lived with the virus for 24 years.

Such stigma leads some individuals to elect not to disclose their infection to their sex partners. "Non-disclosure is one of the challenges of HIV prevention," said Spencer Lieb, senior epidemiologist with the Florida Department of Health's Bureau of HIV/AIDS.

From 2006 to 2008, state data show newly reported HIV cases increased 48 percent in Miami-Dade County and 74 percent in Broward County.