Sex can be tricky. Dating can be a total pain. Add HIV in the mix and you might feel like taking yourself out of the game. But dating — like any other sport — takes practice and some trial and error before you get the hang of it and start to score. To help get you off the bench and into someone's bed, here are five quick and dirty answers to some common questions about sex and dating with HIV.
1. I'm on a dating app where you can say whether you're HIV-positive or not. But I haven't. Is that lying or just being careful?
It doesn't matter whether you are on a dating app, in a crowded bar, or in the frozen food section at Whole Foods; your status is yours disclose whenever and however you like. My personal preference is discussing HIV as soon as possible to protect myself from investing any wasted emotions. Nevertheless, your status is not a character trait or a sexual position so it is completely up to you if and when you tell someone; just as long as you aren't putting someone at risk.
2. I go to an HIV support group and there's one member I see regularly on hookup apps, but on his profiles he lists himself as HIV- negative and on PrEP. Our group is confidential but it feels weird to not say anything.
If he's at a support group, it's probably because he needs some help. Instead of calling his bluff, try drawing from your own experiences to prompt a discussion about HIV disclosure on the dating scene. Dating with a secret like HIV can be devastating. That's a great reason to disclose, but it could help for him to talk about his reasons not to. Make an effort to help him on his journey and you just might grow a little yourself.
3. If I put down that I'm HIV-positive on my profile does that mean I don't have to disclose again before we have sex?
Posting your HIV status next to your sexy pic and how much you weigh is not the same as discussing what it means to have safer sex. One of the biggest mistakes people with HIV sometimes make is to no longer treat their health as something worth protecting. But it is. And the truth is you may still be vulnerable to other strains of HIV and other sexually transmitted infections. So, it's still smart to discuss both of your sexual health. Disclosures build intimacy and that — along with the added peace of mind — will make the sex all the better.
4. He says he's HIV-positive on his profile and wants to bareback. I'm poz too and generally OK with that. But is it safe?
When it comes to sex, it's essential to remember that nothing is perfectly safe. In regards to HIV, as long as you are both on your meds it is generally safe to bareback. However, in the realm of casual hook-ups, a condom can protect against other STI infections that you would probably like to avoid. In a dating scenario, it might be a good idea for you to both get tested before throwing those condoms away. Naturally, the decision is yours to make, just make that decision as informed as possible.
5. I just went out with a guy listed as HIV-negative but on the date he said his last test was 3 years ago. But he seemed offended when I insisted on condoms. Was I wrong?
Repeat after me: "It is never wrong to protect yourself and your health."
Anyone who makes you feel uncomfortable with making a decision regarding your own health is not worth your time. When it comes to sex and protection, it all boils down to being informed and being realistic. Safer sex is hot sex. Never, ever, apologize for making smart choices in regards to sex and HIV; the right guy will find that sexy as hell.
Tyler Curry is editor at large at Plus magazine.