The aftermath of an HIV diagnosis can often leave you with so much to think about that you sometimes forget what life was like before receiving your results. But as the shock wears off and the meds do their thing, life starts to resemble something closer to normal. Before you know it, you are undetectable and your mind shifts to something that can be even scarier than your lab results…dating.
You may think it’s easier to date someone with the same status as you, but with the emergence of PrEP and U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable), your status should have nothing to do with chemistry, compatibility, or sexual attraction. You deserve to be with someone who is the right match. Why? Because you and your partner have nothing to fear.
Still, you might be concerned about how someone who is HIV-negative will react to your positive status. So much so that you might sabotage the connection before it has a chance to take. Relax! You aren’t the only one who may be navigating new territories.
Here are a few things to be aware of before dating someone who is HIV-negative. Pay attention because you might just live happily ever after. If you do break up, trust me, it won’t be over HIV.
Cut them some slack.
As long as they are willing to learn, give them some time to ask questions and become comfortable with what it means to be undetectable. After all, it took you a while to figure it out. It will take time for them as well. Let them know they can ask any question they want. Make them feel comfortable enough to talk about any concerns they may have. Soon enough, they will feel at ease with it and you two can move on to more important topics.
Be open about your own concerns.
Just like you hope they will be open with you, let them know what’s going on in your mind. Talk to them about your concerns and fears regarding HIV. Be honest about any worries you may have. If they are the right person for you, they will be happy to listen to the things that keep you up at night. It may even bring the two of you closer together.
Initiate the talk about sex and safety.
You know that undetectable equals untransmittable, but they may not. Talk about safer practices and explain the simple science about sex and HIV. Share that even the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has acknowledged it is impossible to transmit HIV when you are undetectable. Discuss what it means to have an undetectable viral load. Give them all the information they need to help find their comfort level while sharing your own. Then, after the sex talk, both of you can leave the rest up to hormones and chemistry.
Don’t sell yourself short.
Maybe your date doesn’t have to take a daily medication like you do. Big deal. Just because they are HIV-negative doesn’t mean they are worth more or less than you are. They have to win your love and respect just as much as you need to win theirs. Do not mistake your partner’s comfort level with your HIV status as a sign of their good character or a reason to overlook their character flaws. You are deserving of a partner who deserves you, regardless of status.
Don’t worry about being rejected.
Be up front about your status with no regrets. You’re not the first one to be rejected. Believe me, there are plenty of people who are rejected for a myriad of reasons each day. Someone will be able to recognize what a catch you are and feel lucky to have you. Stand tall, make no apologies for who you are, and find the one person who is right for you. HIV be damned.
Editor at large Tyler Curry is also a contributing editor at The Advocate magazine and the author of A Peacock Among Pigeons. (@IamTylerCurry)