There was a time when a HIV-positive status meant the end of one’s dating life. Now, it is possible to have a fruitful, long-term relationship even with HIV.
Many, though, remain in the dark about navigating this territory. Today, we look at a few ways you can date successfully even while HIV.
HIV vs Romance: The first mistake you will make is to make an HIV positive status the dictator of your love life. You must separate your status and your dating needs. “HIV is not one of the variables that determine whether you and your partner are an emotional and physical match. It is merely a measure of logistics and science. If all of the other elements that form a good relationship are in place, it will be unwise of you to let a positive status get in the way,” says Tyler Curry, an HIV positive author and creator of the Needle Prick Project HIV advocacy platform.
Disclosing your status: Before you can disclose your status, you will need to be accepting and comfortable with it, says psychologist Patrick Musau. “How you see yourself and your status is the first step to a disclosure. If it is a big deal to you, it will most likely strike him as a major deal,” he says. Being comfortable with it will help you prepare for the possible rejection that your disclosure might elicit.
“It also means that you should neither invest too much in the relationship nor take too long to disclose.” This is echoed by Curry, who points out that you must not personalise a rejection if it occurs. “Your date has a right to say yes or no to a relationship just as you do,” he says.
“If a date says no to you, be in a stable position where you can distinguish that the rejection could be because of the limitations of the person rejecting you in normalising HIV as opposed to your status or personality.”
Sexual intimacy: There is no doubt that the presence of HIV can hamper sexual intercourse due to the fear of infection. This is especially common for discordant couples. The fact, though, is that you can still have a fulfilling sexual life. Nonetheless, to be on the safe side, you will need to use protection as guided by your physician.
“Protection is necessary even where you are both HIV positive. This is because you might end up contracting a different type of HIV from your partner that might either deteriorate your HIV condition or force you to change drugs,” says Curry.
The rumour mill: One of the biggest traps that can snare you is the constant worry of what other people think of your relationship and your statuses. For example, this may involve getting deeply affected when rumours spread that you are either also infected or have infected your date! “This is an internal stigma that you must first overcome by recognising that the rumour mill has zero chance of transmitting the HIV virus,” says Curry.
Quick Takeaway: Who should protect who?
Locally, there have been court cases from former lovers who accuse their ex-spouses of infecting them with HIV. Safeguarding from secondary or new HIV infection, though, should not be left on the shoulders of the HIV positive partner alone. “This is a precaution that should be individually and mutually undertaken by either sero-discordant dates or HIV positive couples,” says Susan Gacheru, a family therapist based in Nakuru.