Dating with HIV
16th September 2019
Dating can be a tricky minefield, with issues popping up everywhere from how to meet people to the colourful world of sex. But add a chronic illness with a whole load of stigma attached to it and you may find that that list of issues suddenly gets a little longer. But being HIV-positive is no longer a death sentence and it certainly doesn’t have to be for your love life either.
The most important thing about your HIV status (after accepting your diagnosis and understanding that you’re still you in spite of it) is to tell people that need to be told. If you choose to share with friends and family then that is entirely up to you but it’s important to tell anyone who you’re considering dating or having sex with.
There is potentially no ideal way to tell a potential new partner that you are HIV positive, but it can be just as much about the who as the how. You could time it exactly right, let the news down gently and still, it will be something that some people just won’t accept.
It’s important to remember that that’s okay. Other people are allowed to reject you (just as you can them), whether it’s because of your HIV status, your political opinions or the way you slurp your food. Dating and finding ‘the one’ is a fine art and there may be a number of reasons that you and someone else don’t work out.
If that reason is because you’re HIV positive then you have to respect that and move on. Just ensure you don’t let it affect your self-esteem and remember that there is more to who you are than your sexual health.
When it comes to disclosing your HIV status, there are generally two approaches; tell and kiss or kiss and tell. Tell and kiss means to tell a potential partner before the first kiss (or even before the first date), which gets it out there straight away, gives the other person time to process before you’re too romantically involved and means that by the time you do share more of a connection, you’ll know that they’re okay with it. However, you may find that more people reject you, as they’re facing a roadblock before getting to know the person behind it.
The kiss and tell approach, on the other hand, means (as the name suggests), to wait until after the first kiss, potentially after a few dates. This approach allows you to find out if there’s actually a potential romantic spark between you and the other person before sharing your private medical history, as well as to let them know more of the real you before finding out about your HIV status. However, someone people can often feel misled or deceived by this approach, and the secrecy can often build the disclosure up more in your own head.
There’s not really one approach that’s better than the other; it’s all about what feels right for you. You may even find that you do things differently with different people. The key thing to remember though is to always tell potential partners before any sexual encounters, as to have unprotected sex with someone who doesn’t know you are HIV positive not only violates their right to their own body, but it’s also actually a criminal act.
Even when you feel comfortable enough to tell someone you’re interested in dating that you have HIV, finding the right words can prove difficult. Try to keep things simple and only disclose the amount of information that you want to.
After telling someone, you may receive a number of follow-up questions (such as ‘when did you get it?’, ‘who gave it to you?’), but you need only disclose as much information as you feel comfortable. You should tell potential partners about your status but you do not owe them your entire medical history.
Remember there’s no need to apologise for your condition; part of the virus is the stigma and to feel or act like it’s your fault just reinforces that. Relax, go with your gut and remember how many other people have successfully found their way through the disclosure.
The reason that dating with HIV can be so hard is because of the myths and false information that still surrounds it. Some people even still believe the rumours from the 1980’s, like that you can pass HIV from toilet seats or by kissing.
Once you’ve told potential partners about your status, it’s important that they understand the condition. Work on educating people on how it’s transmitted (only through contaminated blood or unprotected sexual contact) and help them to learn.
Something that’s also not widely known is that if you regularly take HIV medication to the point where the viral load in your blood is classified as ‘undetectable’ then it’s effectively impossible to pass the virus onto anyone.
Even if you are managing your condition successfully and have an undetectable viral load, then it’s still important to be safe when having sex. Not only does safe sex protect your partner from contracting HIV, but it also protects you against other sexually transmitted infections and (for females) unwanted pregnancy.
Your dating life when HIV positive may become more complicated but it certainly doesn’t have to be over. While you may meet some people who are unable to accept it and others who react badly to being told, there’s nothing to say that you can’t have a fulfilling love life and indeed sex life.
For those who are currently HIV negative (and looking to stay that way), there are effective preventative treatments available for those who are at high risk of contracting the disease. PrEP is available to buy online at UK Meds and is extremely effective at protecting against HIV.