Intimacy of Status
Talking about sexual health is awkward. There are personal barriers that prevent friends and family from being that go-to person to talk to about issues affecting someone with HIV. So how is it when dating a complete stranger? Is the expectation that one discusses their entire medical chart with a date before heading into the bedroom? Is it okay to have unprotected sex with them and not disclose HIV status? Is it okay to have unprotected sex with this partner and not disclose HIV status?
Dating and HIV disclosure
These thoughts and potential actions are real for people dating with HIV. In a world full of stigma, each person must come to some decision on how they navigate the dating pool. The toll that negative stigma can play on a person’s emotions is huge.
We talked about how words like ‘clean’ can create an unwelcome atmosphere in a previous article. Here I wanted to touch on the opposite:
Disclosure. Noun, the action of making new or secret information known.
Taking the first step in a process
I am taking a bit of a different perspective on the word here. I think of disclosure as process in which we start with accepting certain information about ourselves or how we view ourselves. This first step can be the biggest challenge and can be a lifelong process. When one is first diagnosed with HIV, one is disclosed to that fact. The emotions of coming to terms with a chronic illness can seem insurmountable.
However if one really looks at the situation, disclosure was the first step to getting the help and the care that we needed. From there, one begins a life long journey to build up from this moment of disclosure. Being in the care of a health professional helps one physically become well and stay that way. From this small step, one gains the confidence to live life with power. In my mind, once you manage pain and illness in a way the makes you happy and healthy, nothing else can get in the way of your success in other areas of your life.
Choose who you disclose your status to
Once we know ourselves, the journey of disclosing becomes one of choice. Just like you made the choice to seek treatment and manage your condition. Be empowered to be selective about who you disclose your status to. It is first and foremost your choice and right (note: some municipalities have laws requiring disclosure in particular cases).
Ask yourself about the nature of the relationship and why you are telling your partner. Consider the person you are telling this information to. Can they benefit from this information? Is this the most compassionate thing that one can do in this moment? In these answers will be an honest response.
The right time will present itself
Never apologize for a chronic condition. Time and energy are put into maintaining health. Be proud of your achievement. Finally take time and relax. The right time will present itself and I know that millions of other people have dealt with this experience and found loving and compassionate partners to join them on their journey.
At what age were you diagnosed with HIV?