Ok, so I’m a 20 year old guy trying to re-vamp my dating life, but without the club and bar scene (mainly because it conflicts with school, and it’s not really my scene anyways). So the obvious solution was online dating. I subscribed to a dating site, everything was going well, and then there was this guy who’s profile I really liked. We have a lot of the same interests, he’s insanely cute, and he’s definitely someone I would like to get to know and possibly date in the future. But, he revealed in his description that he’s HIV positive, and as soon as I read that it was like a brick wall hit me. All the guys I’ve dated before have been negative, and I couldn’t focus after reading about this guy’s status because of the amount of questions running through my head… My standards are “no glove, no love”, so the issue of safe-sex isn’t a problem here, and both my sister and I are in school for medical degrees, so we’re pretty educated on this subject. But is pursuing this a wise choice? … Also, my parental situation for this part of my life isn’t very good, and I know I would be very anxious delivering the two bombs at once of ” hey, I’m going to live openly now, and by the way my boyfriend is HIV positive. Pass the chicken”. I love my family dearly, but I don’t know if my parents would be able to handle both these situations at once. … But, with my personality, and my intimacy standards, I can see myself getting past all of this and being able to have a healthy relationship with this guy…
I don’t know which of you is reading this, but I’m one of your subscribers and it’s easy to see that you guys have a happy and successful relationship. I don’t know if either of you has run into this situation with a friend, or Will has with any of his past boyfriends, but your advice would be greatly appreciated because I am utterly torn in what to do.
Michael from Ohio
I can definitely say that you are not alone in your dilemma. Neither of us have had any personal experience with that issue in our dating lives, but that doesn’t mean that we’re completely in the dark on this issue. HIV isn’t just a mystical curse, it’s a real condition that affects real people every single day: straight, gay, bi, trans…the whole nine yards. Luckily, these days, it doesn’t have to affect very much of a person’s day to day life. Sure, there are added responsibilities such as medication, regular medical exams, not to mention certain precautions (which, as you noted, should be normal protocol anyway). Other than that, though, a positive person has the capability to live a very normal, healthy, happy life, as do their partners and loved ones.
So a lot of the fears plaguing you might have to do with outdated images from the days when HIV was a much more urgent crisis. Provided that your pos partner catches the virus early enough, they should be able to keep their health in check pretty easily. So his immune system isn’t going to suddenly tank. He’s not going to drop dead on you out of the blue, at least not on account of the disease. Sure, you and your sister know all of this in a theoretical, textbook sense. But there are some pretty haunting images still fresh in people’s minds from a very ugly outbreak that took place not too long ago. Not to mention that we’re still bombarded with graphic images and stories about HIV ravaging today’s third world. Those images are powerful (for a reason), but such imagery stirs up our emotions, and emotions can often interfere with our ability to think rationally. But how many positive people have you interacted with? Have you read or heard firsthand from any of these people about how their status affects their daily life? They are the ones who can really put stuff into perspective about how their status actually affects them on a daily basis. It’s that kind of practical ignorance that makes some of those earlier images harder to put in perspective. Because of this, I encourage everyone out there to obtain at least a basic education about HIV and how it affects people here and now. The sad reality is that positive people here in this country (as well as other developed nations) are very often subject to the same kind of irrational discrimination that we gays face, sometimes even to a greater degree. Sometimes it’s the stigma that affects them way more than the disease. This hatred stems from ignorance. And again, it’s not just a gay problem…it’s an everybody problem.
Now I’m not going to lie to you and say that dating an HIV positive person will be exactly the same as dating someone who you KNOW is negative (remember that a lot of transmission happens because people don’t know they have it—GET TESTED, PEEPS). There are certain realities that HIV positive people and their loved ones must experience that other people don’t. But it’s nothing to despair. You can say that about any chronic condition. I have a sensory processing disorder as well as acid reflux, asthma, and chronic sinusitis, which is a particular pain in the ass when it comes to living in an area with lots of pollen and other irritants. Will has to be careful dealing with me if I ever go into sensory overload and start mentally shutting down or start experiencing an anxiety or panic attack. I also have huge genetic predispositions to high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, prostate cancer, colon cancer, melanoma, breast cancer, and Alzheimer’s. Will has a connective tissue disorder, a brain aneurysm (so he really could die at any moment theoretically), as well as genetic predispositions to auto-immune diseases like lupus or MS. He also has PTSD. We have to deal with our various conditions on a daily basis, and there’s a high likelihood that we’re going to need various forms of special care when we get old. But watching our videos, you’d hardly even know it. That’s not because we hide anything, either. We just don’t let those conditions define us as people. Even if the both of us were completely healthy in a clinical sense, the two of us are riddled with character flaws that can make us hard to deal with at times. Everyone has imperfections. It’s part of what makes us human.
Then again, dealing with all of those issues is fine when you’re with a person whom you genuinely care for. If you love the person, none of that other crap matters. You’re not going to know that until you date and get to know the person. This insanely cute, smart, funny guy could be the man of your dreams. If you never give him a chance, you’ll never know for sure.
I hope this at least helps you put stuff into perspective.