For HIV-positive heterosexuals, dating can be a challenge.
In 2012, Daniel and Dena Hughes were seeking companionship through HIV Dating Online, an online website specifically for individuals living with HIV. What happened next was like a fairy tale.
"It was two days before Valentine’s Day. I received a notification about a man who had just come online and was only 13 miles from me. Since my diagnosis, dating was not necessarily difficult, but it was challenging to have to include the intricacies of HIV in the relationship," says Dena Hughes.
"I went to the site because the biggest challenge in communicating with a potential partner was already taken care of. I didn’t have to worry about telling someone else that I was HIV positive," responds Daniel. The two spoke briefly and made plans to meet. They have been inseparable ever since. Six months after meeting one another, they were married in their home with family and friends in support. Today, Daniel is the owner and operator of Hughes Property Services, a resident and commercial renovation and building company. Dena owns Concept 2 Resource, a consulting firm.
Both are active in the HIV community in Houston, Texas. Dena has spent her personal and professional career working and advocating for people living with HIV and HIV prevention. Daniel is certified as a Community Health Worker and promotes HIV education among men, with a special interest in individuals returning from incarceration. Together, Daniel and Dena have created a very large blended family with 10 kids that rotate through their home and three grandchildren.
Their oldest daughter, Danne currently works as an HIV and teen pregnancy prevention health worker. "Every day, we are grateful that we had the opportunity to connect with one another. We found what we were looking for and at the same time received so much more, a family, a loving community," said Dena Hughes.