Navigating relationships with HIV can be tricky. How do you meet a person? How do you decide when or if you should disclose your HIV status? The biggest question is: Will I be rejected or not?
I have met people at school, at church outings, through friends and online dating. I don't know which are easier or harder. But I do like online dating because I can read the bio and learn more about the person through questions and online messaging. It is a great way to weed out the bad ones. I have met some of my very best friends through online dating. Through friends I can ask questions and hope to get good answers. Dating is a game of chance and one in which you need to know what you really want. This means knowing and loving yourself.
Once you meet the person the next question is when to disclose. Before I disclose I usually drop some test questions and comments. I will see how they feel about some controversial topics, by slipping it into casual conversation. These topics usually are not specific to HIV, but generally, if the person opposes these topics they also are not receptive to HIV. But that isn't always the case. I refuse to have sex with them until I feel comfortable enough to disclose my status.
Once I decide to disclose, it is never easy and it always feels like the first time even though I have disclosed in front of a crowd of as many as 6000 people. Every time is the first time with that person. Every time I disclose I have a fear of rejection. I can't say which is the best way to disclose, but how you should do it is when it's just the two of you and you won't be interrupted. Be sure that you have the time to disclose and make sure if possible that you have a clean escape if it goes poorly. This means a way to get back home without the help of that person. This is also good to give them the opportunity to process what you've said alone while they make a decision. Remember that you have had a while to process it and to give the other person the same opportunity is only fair. This doesn't mean a rejection.
In the past I have received complete acceptance, like with my ex-husband who said that he'd love me unconditionally (that ended up being very conditional but not because of my HIV status). Next, I love you but can't wrap myself around the HIV. Then my favorite: "You're a very strong and brave person, thank you for sharing with me". Code words for: I am about to run.
No matter what the response, it is no longer your problem. It is their issue if they accept or don't accept you. So love yourself regardless and keep on stepping. If it didn't work out at least you found out before it got bad.
I am just ending a relationship, in which our first try ended after six months because he couldn't accept my HIV status. A year later we decided to try again, and after 16 months it ended again due to differences, but we remain good friends. I don't know where my future will take me, but I will continue to love myself first and be honest always.
Resources on Disclosure:
- Disclosure (POZ.com)
- Disclosure and HIV