When they told me I had HIV, I went into a crisis. I thought my life was over, but not because I was going to die, since I had several friends who had the virus and were very stable with their treatment. What hurt was that I was single at the time, and I was sure that no man was going to want to be with me if they found out about this.
And there I was: 21 years old, single and facing my new reality.
Obviously, sex was the last thing I thought about for the first few weeks. I felt very bad emotionally, and it was a process, starting my antiretroviral treatment and adapting to it.
But as time went by, my sexual desire came back, and with it some conflicts. Could I one day regain my sex life? I couldn’t help feeling different, as if I was a danger to others, though I was determined to always use a condom.
Luckily, they invited me to attend a support group at the same hospital where I was being seen, with other people who also live with HIV. There we could talk among equals, and I felt I could share with them what my biggest concern was at the time.
Everybody (and there were also women) were very understanding. The majority of us agreed that it was important to reveal our serological status to a potential partner, whether it be a casual one, or a potential steady partner, and we started to think of ways to do it.
Honesty above all
What they advised me was to mention it as soon as possible in order to avoid it becoming a lie through omission when a relationship was forming with someone. Another thing they advised me was to remain aware that there may be rejection. That was, deep down, what most tormented me, and putting it into words lightened the load a little bit: it’s likely that I might be rejected and I must accept this reality, but it’s also possible that they won’t reject me.
A tip that I’ve put into practice is, for example, if I meet someone in a bar, I tell them my diagnosis from the beginning of the conversation. That way, if he doesn’t want to get involved with someone with HIV, we avoid the courtship and we basically don’t waste each other’s time.
My group mates also told me: “if you can’t be so forthcoming, bring the subject more subtly; for example, saying that you attend this group”. In this case, it’s likely that the man in question will ask why and that way I can provide a clear answer.
Dating sites and social media
In the digital world, it’s much easier. In the dating app I subscribed to, my profile states that I live with HIV, therefore only those who are interested in me even knowing that, will contact me.
Not letting your guard down
And, one last and very important advice I received was to not let my guard down in case I have sex with another person who also has HIV, since that doesn’t mean we can stop wearing a condom. This is because I could get another sexually transmitted disease, or even become infected with a different strain of HIV.
I know that this is a long road that I am just starting on. I know that I can come across rejection from others and I don’t blame them, since HIV has always been loaded with myths and stigma. I believe that my attitude has to be as optimistic as can be and this way, I will only relate with people who don’t base themselves on prejudice and who see the real me.
At AHF, we can help you. We offer linkage to treatment services, HIV tests, condoms and information, all for free. Write to us via WhatsApp.