Recently, GMFA posted an excellent series of videos of HIV positive men responding to mean dating app messages. The videos were a heartwarming, funny, way of tackling HIV stigma, which has a very real impact on the spread of the virus. For HIV positive people, though, the challenge doesn’t end with landing a date. Today is STI Awareness day and although most people are aware of the existence of STIs, many don’t know how they are passed on, treated or managed. This creates unnecessary stigma that can be a real barrier to people with STIs who are perfectly able to have healthy relationships. A supporter of SH:24 recently got in touch with us to share his experiences of navigating the world of relationships as an HIV positive person. This is his story.
"I met someone recently. Normally people would get really excited at this point, when are we next going out? What should we do on our next date? But dating with HIV hasn’t got any easier in the three years since my diagnosis and I’m not expecting it to for a while.
I have some horror stories of dating, like most HIV positive people probably do. After the first few times you start to put barriers up. You find reasons to avoid telling people so that you don’t have to add another horror story to your list. Then you start pushing people away and finding problems with relationships or people so that you never get to the point where you tell people. In the last two years I’ve had everything from polite refusal because of my status to my ex reminding me he could have me arrested and convicted because we’d almost had sex. I’ve been asked countless times if I’m ‘clean’ as though having HIV makes me dirty or untouchable. I’ve had people focus on how I got it, asking me if I knew who I got it from, or when it happened. And I’ve had boyfriends who reminded me every week that they’ve stayed with me despite my status, using it as a reason to get away with treating me badly.
When your life is under scrutiny from doctors and nurses, it’s impossible not to second guess and overthink every chance of passing HIV onto another person. It’s a real and constant fear that has an effect on everything I do including how I act in relationships. When you flinch away from someone with HIV because of their status you confirm their fears: they’re damaged goods and they aren’t good enough to love.
I’m back in the closet now. A heart-breaking realisation for someone who has been out and proud since they were thirteen. Everything I say and do is double and triple checked to make sure I don’t give enough away to one person for them to guess. I even bought tablet trays so I didn’t have to carry my anti-retroviral medication in anything with the name or brand on.
But like I said, I’ve met someone recently. He knows about my status and he doesn’t care. I’m hoping the rest of our society catches up soon. This could go everywhere or nowhere but I don’t mind because for the first time in three years I have the same chance at making it work as every other gay guy in London. I know that there might be more horror stories in the future but now I know they won’t all be."
If you need some support with a diagnosis or have recently met someone and would like more information on how HIV could affect your relationship, there are lots of places your can get support:
For more information on sexual and genital health, STIs and contraception go to sh24.org.uk