Recently, I found myself in a difficult, but not unfamiliar, situation. It's one that I usually try to avoid. In my infinite quest to find ways to procrastinate from living my life, I found myself online and on a hookup site. I normally just go on there to browse and check out who is around; it rarely leads to an actual meeting. This time, I ended up speaking with a guy who seemed nice enough. After a few hours of chatting back and forth, we opted to meet up for a drink. The problem was, we decided to meet for that drink at my house.
In the back of my head I kind of already knew where this encounter was leading, but since we had had such a great exchange, I convinced myself that we might actually be meeting to get to know each other better, and that sex was not on the agenda for the evening.
When he came by, we had a drink, made some mindless small talk, and then I found myself laying on the bed with the guy I had planned to just get to know. During the initial foreplay, I kept telling myself that I still might have a chance of not needing to say anything about my HIV status, since I felt we weren't going to end up in a situation where anyone would be put at risk. Plus, he hadn't said or asked anything yet either, so maybe it was a nonissue or maybe he also didn't expect things to go much further, at least that night.
Well, things did progress and we mutually decided that intercourse was what we both wanted. At this point, there was no turning back, and it was at that moment that he asked, "You're negative, right?" Right then and there I was slapped right back into reality and I knew I had messed up. Why hadn't I told him before we met up? It would have made this scene a whole lot easier, or just eliminated it from ever happening.
Being HIV positive for the past six years, I've had to deal with disclosure and the gut-wrenching process of deciding the appropriate time to disclose for each situation I put myself in.
There have been times when I was feeling courageous and just posted it directly on my dating profile. This was the easiest way because I didn't have to do much. But I quickly realized that a lot of men didn't take the time to actually read the profile. Besides that, some guys who did notice my status didn't even give me the opportunity to let them get to know me before making the call on whether they were interested or not. At other times I would wait until I could gage if there was interest from an initial conversation, and then I would take the time to disclose. But there have also been instances where I waited until after a first date, when I knew no sexual interaction would take place, to then reach out and let that person know before we decided if there would be a second date or not. This method actually was favorable for me because it gave me the opportunity to meet the man before I decided if he was someone that needed to know something so personal about me.
Then, of course, there is the scenario where I've not said anything and the subject came up after the clothes came off. That's by far the most difficult situation and one that frustrates me, because if he is waiting to ask such an important question until that last possible moment, what is he expecting to do if he doesn't receive what he deems to be the appropriate response? Would he stop everything and get dressed again, making me feel extremely uncomfortable and bad about myself? There are a lot of HIV-negative people who place blame on an HIV-positive person for not disclosing right away. But isn't there an equal responsibility on the part of the HIV-negative person to ask?
For me that night, waiting to say something led to a very obvious disappointment, which led to a very unsexy situation ending with us getting dressed. What followed was my date suddenly needing to head home even though he reassured me he wasn't completely freaked out or disgusted. It's no surprise that my feelings took an unnecessary beating that day.
It's not an easy subject for anyone and it truly shouldn't be this way. Disclosure is a very personal topic and experience for each person. There isn't a right or wrong way of when or how to do it. What I've learned is that it sometimes can be easier to just get it over with right away, whether that's by stating it on an online profile, bringing it up during an initial conversation or mentioning it before planning to meet someone for the first time, when you think there might be the possibility of having sex.
It's not easy to deal with the possible rejection, and I am not sure if disclosing will ever become something so mindless that it doesn't evoke some sort of emotions for the majority of people with an HIV-positive diagnosis, but getting status out of the way at the start is a lot easier than waiting and then having to bring it up once the clothes are off.