Devon from North Carolina asks, “The guy I was dating for over a month is HIV-positive and he never told me. Apparently a lot of people already knew about his status and they told me after we stopped dating. I am pissed. What do I do?"
I can only imagine how stressed and upset you must be after learning this information. To begin, the first thing you need to do, to stop your mind from spinning out of control, is to get tested immediately. An HIV test is the only way to rule out any actual problems he may have caused you. If other people were aware of his status, there is probably a pretty good chance he was on treatment. Still, an HIV test is never a bad idea.
To clarify, it isn’t right for anyone to conceal his or her HIV status before engaging in sex if there is a risk involved. This is a pretty touchy subject since simply being HIV-positive can often be seen as criminal in a judicial setting.
As an HIV-positive man, my treatment protects me from transmitting HIV. I say “me” because we are all responsible for our own sexual health. And when a condom is used, there isn’t really a moral imperative for me to disclose since I am not placing anyone at risk. This can be difficult, however, because some people do not understand the difference between the legal realities and the dynamics of safer sex.
Now, it is my personal style to always disclose simply to avoid situations like the one you are in now. Again, everyone should disclose his or her HIV status. You have an HIV status, too, be it positive or negative. So, to recap, you aren't to blame; but I want to empower you to be safe in future situations. To do that I want to ask you these questions:
Do you know your HIV status? If you didn't know your status prior to your encounter, then you are likely assuming you were negative. But that's a pretty big assumption and, since 1 in 8 Americans living with HIV don't know they are positive, your assumption could be faulty.
How do you protect yourself? In other words, do you use condoms or take PrEP? If you think your status is in question, it sounds like you may have placed yourself at risk. Maybe you aren’t on PrEP or didn’t use a condom every encounter with your ex. If this is the case, it’s likely that you have engaged in risky behavior with other people, some of whom may also have been positive. Get tested and evaluate your safer sex practices. That way it won’t matter what his status is. You'll be protected.
Did you disclose your HIV status before the two of you had sex? You can't rely on other people to protect your sexual health. If you didn't ask, he might have assumed you were poz too, or that you were on PrEP. That's why it's so important to have these conversations. If he was putting you at risk then he most certainly should have told you. From now on, take the initiative to engage in an open dialogue about HIV and protection with your sexual partners.
Let’s face it, dating can suck and people can be unreliable, regardless of their HIV status. Take your sexual health in your own hands and at least you'll never have to worry about what his or her status may be.