Imagine this: You are single and living with HIV. You decide to start dating in hopes of finding your soul mate, or at least a companion with whom to live out the rest of your years. Thankfully, with the advances in medicine, you have hope. You understand undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U), are well versed on pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and are confident you can do this.
So, you join a dating site or three, pumped and ready for the possibility of finding the one. You upload your cutest pic, write a bunch of glossy words that are sure to make you stand out. And, BAM! You get a hit. You agree to a meet and greet, and things go great. One date turns to two, and before long, things are moving quickly. Tension rises, and not the bad kind either. You know, the kind that makes you all warm and fuzzy. Uh oh. Now it is time to have the talk.
And let's say you have the talk, and things go surprisingly well. Now you have a boo. You are on top of the world. You and Boo are doing the thing, living life. Then the smoke clears, and you realize Boo isn't even your type. What now?
Now comes the real test. Sure, you overcame the fear of disclosure and won. Boo understood about U=U and PrEP and still wanted to be with you. That should count for something, right? I mean, after all, it isn't common to find someone willing to date a person living with HIV. Does that mean you should remain in the relationship?
Here's the thing: Dating is hard. Dating with HIV is harder. Not only do you have to deal with disclosure and stigma, but you also must deal with self-stigma. Thoughts like, "Who will want me now?" and "I am damaged goods," to name a couple. And contrary to popular belief, it isn't any easier if you decide to date another person living with HIV. There are different levels to this thing. You may both understand the trauma of being a person living with HIV, but just like the rest of the world, people are in different places in life.
One might have fully come to terms with living with the virus, while another has problems even adhering to their meds. One may be very open with their status, while the other hasn't disclosed to anyone close to them. How do you handle that? What kind of problems will it cause the relationship? Will Boo keep you a secret from others in their life because they don't want anyone to think or know they are living with the virus?
What if you don't have any of those problems? Your only problem is the realization that if you were not living with HIV, you would have never settled for a relationship with this person. Why are you here now? Why settle for less than you desire or deserve? You are not a charity case. You are a beautiful, loving, vibrant being that deserves love and happiness. Don't sell yourself short because someone is "willing" to be with you. Realize that you are worthy. Anyone would be lucky to have you and the gift you would be in their life, HIV or not. HIV does not define or devalue you. And besides, as close as we are to a cure, wouldn't you hate to be cured of HIV only to end up stuck in a relationship that doesn't add joy or happiness to your life?
Takia Miller is the founder of Love's Child Ministries, Inc., a nonprofit she created to advocate for people living with HIV by educating the public and tackling the associated stigma. A native of Winston-Salem, she graduated from Winston-Salem State University, where she majored in mass communications. She is the mother of two adult sons, whom she still affectionately refers to as Thing 1 and Thing 2.