There are a few things in this world that seem to infinite, space, time, Cher’s fair-well tours, and gay men’s capacity for gossip.
I don’t know what it is about gay men but we just love a bit of gossip. I myself am not immune to this phenomenon, I’ll put my hands up now. But there are some things that you just don’t gossip about and a person’s HIV status is one of those.
Imagine my surprise the other night when I get a IM from someone I barely know saying “Are you HIV positive?”. I didn’t answer straight away but instead inquired as to why he was asking. Apparently a joint “friend” had seen us chatting online and thought that he should tell him for his own protection. Because, you know, you can get HIV over instant messaging these days.
Furthermore it’s apparently a “Well known fact” that I’m HIV positive and that I “go around barebacking people without telling them”. Ah that old rumour again eh? Never gets old that one. This is the darker side of the gay grapevine. Without me even having confirmed my HIV status I was then told how what I was doing was “reckless” and “criminal”. I tried to point out that the spreading of such unfounded rumours was, in fact, libel – a criminal offence. He didn’t take this well.
The whole exchange left me feeling angry and violated. Angry because it’s no-one’s business what my HIV status is, and it’s certainly not their place to be going around telling people. Violated because my name is being dragged through the mud by “friends” unknown – who actually think I’m going around infecting people with HIV. The very thought left me feeling physically sick, I wouldn’t wish this virus on my worst enemy.
The stigma surrounding HIV is never going to go away if people trade other people’s HIV statuses like dirty little secrets, something to be ashamed of. But nor should we feel we have to announce it to the world and his dog to pre-empt the rumour mill. How about we allow HIV positive people some respect and privacy and let them tell only who they want, and when they want – and not out them like some sort of sideshow attraction?
So before you pass on that juicy bit of gossip you just heard, take a moment to think: How is this going to effect the person? Do I have any right to tell people this? How would I like it if people said this about me? Maybe the rumour could stop with you?
From my hidey cave,
Two blog posts in one week? I know, I’m spoiling you, but read on…
Possibly the single biggest issue for me about being HIV+ isn’t my health, the medication etc, it’s actually the rejection that you can face when you tell someone your status.
One of the first people I ever disclosed my status to was a holiday romance. We’d been hanging out for a couple of days, drinking, swimming, holding hands etc, all very romantic. One afternoon I got a text asking me to spend the night with him at his hotel, I thought it only fair that I tell him my (fairly recently found) HIV status. That was one of the most difficult texts I ever had to send not just from my nervous clammy hands or the heart beating in my mouth.
He replied shortly saying that he was “OK with it”, but at the same time said that we’d have to postpone the night at the hotel because of plans with his friends. That was the last time we ever had a proper conversation. I tried chatting to him a couple of times after that, mostly he just ignored my calls/texts – the final time he answered but pretended to be someone else. I’d been well and truly rejected. Gutted.
Since that day I’ve had a policy of telling people I plan to sleep with/date as soon as possible. If someone messages me on Gaydar/Grindr asking for a fuck I have no problem saying right up front “By the way, I’m HIV+. I hope that’s not an issue?”. But as I found out last night it’s still pretty nerve-wracking telling someone you have feelings for.
Last night I agreed to go on a date with someone I’ve been talking to for a while. He’s very handsome, totally buff and a bit shorter than me. Amazing. Then it dawned on me that I was going to have to tell him. I decided to do it then and there, seeing as we were already chatting.
I said “In the spirit of openness and honesty I need to share something with you. Plus it saves us both heartache if it’s something you feel you can’t handle. Please be honest with me either way. I’m HIV positive”. Cue a ridiculously long wait. Why wasn’t he replying? Was it too much? Fuck, fuckity fuck.
He *eventually* replied “Hey, don’t stress about it. My ex had it, and we were together five years”. Overjoyed. He was absolutely fine with it and thanked me for being so honest. We’ve even planned our date for this Monday night coming.
Disclosing your status isn’t an easy thing to do, no matter how readily we might do it. All that we ask is that the people we tell are honest with us. If you’re uncomfortable being with someone that’s HIV+ then tell us (nicely!), we’d much rather that than being lied to – then ignored.
I’m ashamed to admit but I’ve not been to a dentist in YEARS. I can’t stand the places. Men in white coats poking you with sharp tools the hygienist that simultaneously drowns you whilst telling you off for not flossing, and then they expect you to pay for it! It’s not my idea of fun, let me tell you.
Sadly, for the first time in my life I think I’ve got a cavity. At my age I’m shocked I’ve not had one sooner to be honest. Great, a trip to the hell that is the dentist.
I called up my dentist, turns out that having not been for over four years gets you taken off their patient list (who knew?), and when I asked to re-register I was told they weren’t accepting any more patients. So began my search for a new dentist.
I found a couple online near me, there wasn’t much between them, I chose the one that’d be easiest to get to. So I’m sat in a draft waiting room, half filling in my registration forms, half watching Jeremy Kyle on the TV (he wasn’t the father, and no-one had any idea who else it could be) when I noticed a question on the form:
“Are you HIV positive? YES/NO”
Why would my dentist need to know this? At first I thought maybe it’s to protect themselves in case there’s blood flying – but then surely they should assume every patient’s blood could contain HIV, Hep A/B/C, Malaria etc, so surely they should take ample measures whatever the patient? Then I thought maybe it’s for my benefit – you know to use super sterile kit – but I’d hope all of their equipment would be of the highest cleanliness for every single patient, regardless of HIV status?
I’ve failed to think of a single situation where my HIV status is relevant to the treatment I receive or the safety precautions the dentist should take. If I fill in ‘YES’ will I be refused treatment? If I circle ‘NO’ am I breaking the law?
In the end I circled neither. I handed my forms into the receptionist – who didn’t check them – and I saw the dentist. I’m tempted to phone back, anonymously, and ask why it was on the form – but I doubt I’d get a coherent answer from that receptionist. Let’s just hope it’s another four years before I have to go again…
Best dental wishes,
So it was only three days ago I was blogging about my Valentines Day Hope, and here I am three days later minus one boyfriend. You couldn’t make this stuff up really could you?
I don’t know if blogging about it “jinxed it” in any way, I’m not sure I even believe in jinxing/luck/fate/destiny etc but the timing couldn’t really be any worse either way. One day you blog about your love for a guy, and how it’s giving you hope for the future, and the next day he breaks up with you via text message.
So what happened? Basically our three month relationship had shifted largely to me supporting him emotionally, whilst he (on his much much larger salary – and unrequested by myself) spoiled me to keep me supporting him. It’s strange how you never see this stuff at the time. I felt uncomfortable with the constant gifts and guilty that I couldn’t reciprocate in kind, and it came to a head on Wednesday when it was made clear to me that my home-cooked candlelit dinner and card “wouldn’t cut it” and that because I wasn’t buying him things that I clearly didn’t care for him.
I asked to take a day’s space so we could consider the situation, and what we’d do going forwards. The next day I received a text telling me that I wasn’t a “suitable” boyfriend, and that it was over. Followed by several incredibly abusive texts including ones deriding my appearance.
The worst one however, was when he used my HIV status to mock me (not a first for my ex’s). He’d always been very supportive of me throughout our relationship but apparently now he’d stop caring it was OK to say “I can have any guy I want – especially as I’m HIV negative!”. That’s something I cannot and will not ever forgive. It has shown him to be way more immature than I ever thought was possible, and I feel saddened for him that he felt he had to stoop to that level.
So now I’m single, again, but this time around I don’t mind. I’m in a better place than I was three months ago, things are happening in my life and I’ve got a great group of friends around me, and do you know what, that last paragraph from my Valentine’s Day post:
It gives me hope, not just for me, but for everyone else out there, that if this mess of a person can find love again, then so can anyone. So if you’re sat reading this, feeling sorry for yourself today, STOP. There’s always hope. You never know what’s just around the corner. You might just surprise yourself.
I still believe that. I still hold that dear to me. There is now, and always will be hope. The world keeps turning, and I keep smiling.
Happy Friday boys and girls,
Just a short blog post today, more a diary entry if you will.
I had a bit of a realisation last night that I’m finally becoming comfortable with my ATRIPLA (HIV medication). A bunch of my friends had all congregated at my friend Paul’s house last night for movies, wine and a catch up. We’d not seen each other since before Christmas, so there was much to talk about. Some of the people in the group know my HIV status, some don’t – one of the guys in the group is HIV+ himself and has been a great support to me.
So we’re part way through watching a horror film when suddenly my phone starts buzzing, it’s my nightly reminder to take my ATRIPLA. Normally I would have made an excuse and escaped into the hallway or kitchen to take my pill, but last night I thought “No! Fuck it! Who cares? These are my friends. If they ask about it I’ll tell them, I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of!“. So I just got the pill out of my pocket and necked it with my beer, right there on the sofa. The thing is, no-one even noticed that I took anything – what have I been making such a fuss over?
“No! Fuck it! Who cares? These are my friends. If they ask about it I’ll tell them, I’ve got nothing to be ashamed of!”
The whole thing has made me realise how much more comfortable I am about taking my medication, much more so than when I started – just two months ago. Back then even when I was on my own I’d stare at the pill and think about it before I swallowed it, sometimes for minutes at a time. Now I take it without thinking about it, and am even happy to do it front of my friends.
I think this is what they call progress!
Disclosure, especially to sexual partners, has got to be one of thet biggest things I (and I imagine most other HIV+ people) dread. To say it’s a complete quagmire is putting it mildly.
There are many things to think about here:
- Who do you tell?
- When do you tell them?
- How do you tell them?
- Their possible reactions
So, taking these in that order these are MY thoughts on the matter:
Do you disclose to everyone, or just the people who are more likely to be at risk? I won’t necessarily have the discussion for a simple making out session or for a blow job – it would kill the mood for no real reason, but if we start heading into fucking (anal) territory I will let them know. If I’m asked then obviously I will tell them, I’m not about to lie to someone for sex. As to when you tell them there are seemingly two schools of thought on this one – either tell them straight away (sometimes before you’ve even met) or tell them once you’ve got to know them. I personally have taken to telling prospective sexual partners and dates straight away, that way you don’t risk becoming emotionally invested in someone only to be rejected once you do tell them that you’ve HIV+.
I learnt this the hard way when on holiday, I got close to someone over the course of a week, we fooled around, we swapped numbers, but when I got back to the UK and he asked me out on a date I thought it only right to tell him my status. It did not go well. He cancelled our date for “work reasons” and stopped returning calls and messages. That hurt, that hurt a lot. So now if I’m arranging a meet or a date on Grindr or Gaydar for example, before we’ve even arranged the date I’ll just say “by the way, I’m HIV+ I hope that won’t be a problem”. That way if it’s something they can’t handle there’s no love lost, we can both just move straight on.
I know some people out there would rather whether someone is HIV before even kissing them, but I’m not about to wander around bars telling every guy who fancies a kiss that I’m HIV+, but if things get more serious please rest assured that I will let you know.
For those of you reading this who are not HIV+ please I beg of you, understand how very difficult it is for those of us who are HIV+ to tell you, especially whilst all of this is new to us (like it is to me). If someone discloses to you and you don’t feel comfortable taking things any further please be kind, but most of all be honest with the person. We deserve your honesty at least, after all, we were honest with you.