HIV status and dating
An article in the New York Times a while back suggested that some of the drop in HIV infection rates in San Francisco can be attributed to HIV positive guys being more likely to date and have sex with guys who are also HIV positive. The web has made it easier for positive guys to search for other positive guys via personal ads and online listings. The Times quoted one official as saying, “From a public health perspective, it is much more important that people have sexual contacts of the same status” than it is that they practice safer sex.
Hooking up is one thing, but how about dating? Negotiating safer sex boundaries is one of the challenges of going out with someone, but it’s far from the only one. But what’s it like dating someone who’s HIV sero-status is different from your own? Is it easier for a positive guy to date another positive guy, or a negative to date another negative?
Positive guys may have more of an opinion in the matter than negative guys do, mostly because they think about HIV more often. Many of them find it easier to date someone who is familiar with the realities of living with HIV. Dating another positive guy means the dynamics of self-disclosure are a lot different; there’s no need to worry about whether the guy will say something insensitive or reject them out of hand.
Many positive guys can find themselves in a dilemma around sex. Constantly worrying about infecting a partner sucks the joy and passion out of sex for some men. They long to be able to relax, but they couldn’t live with themselves if they passed HIV on to someone they cared about. While some people worry about infection with a “super strain” of HIV from another positive man, the worry is often minimal compared with the causing someone to become HIV positive in the first place.
There is a wide spectrum of attitudes towards HIV among HIV negative guys. For better or worse, some men see HIV as a minor concern these days. Some men have reached that conclusion because they’re uninformed or apathetic. Other men feel very informed, and have made peace with the risks of modern life. For still other men, though, dating someone with HIV would simply make them too anxious or distracted to allow intimacy to thrive.
Like most things about selecting a boyfriend, we’re talking about personal choice. But HIV negative men should be aware that someone declaring themselves to be HIV-negative doesn’t mean that unprotected safe is OK. It’s not unusual for positive guys to hear, “I wish you hadn’t told me that” when they disclose their HIV status before sex. The message: there are things I’d be willing to risk if I didn’t know your status that I’m unwilling to do when I know you’ve got HIV. This is a stupid safer-sex strategy because it assumes everyone with HIV 1) knows they’ve got it and 2) is going to tell you. Life is more complicated than that.
Is it easier to date someone who has the same HIV status you do? In many ways the answer is yes. But as the philosopher Pascal said, “The heart has its reasons, whereof reason knows nothing.” We don’t have complete control over the kind of person who attracts us – or his HIV status. Make your choices, but be prepared if life decides to surprise you and you find yourself falling for someone with an HIV status different from your own.
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