Undetectable = Un-transmittable, Getting Over the Stigma of HIV

Recently I was asked if I was still single would date I someone who was HIV positive but undetectable. My answer was a resounding yes. If the chemistry were there and I loved that person I would date them if they were undetectable or detectable. I don’t usually write articles about HIV/AIDS, I leave that to our columnist Danial Ashely Williams, since he is HIV positive he has a perspective that I don’t. In this case maybe as someone who is HIV negative, I should share my perspective on dating someone who is HIV positive. All though there is no real cure yet, drug advancements have come so far that with daily treatment HIV can become undetectable in the body and undetectable means un-transmittable, that means you can’t pass on the virus through sex. NOW, don’t get me wrong I’m not saying not use a condom, that is a personal choice. I’m just saying HIV can’t be transmitted to a sexual partner if it’s undetectable in the system. That being said, what do we have to do as a community to make the stigma of HIV undetectable and un-transmittable?

The AIDS epidemic during the 80’s and early 90’s wiped out whole communities. Major Cities like New York, San Fransisco, L.A., and Chicago were not the only places devastated by the virus. The gay community in smaller cities in the mid-west were all but wiped out. Calumet City IL for example. Cal City had a thriving LGBTQ community. Now there’s just a gay bar or two left and the community has never fully recovered. All around the globe, gay or not the world lost potential artists, entertainers, scientists, doctors and people lost loved ones. What if we lost the person who could have actually cured this disease.

Now with the advancements in drug therapy the healing has started, at least for the people who are HIV positive. They have a new lease on life and yes of course the potential that they MIGHT develop AIDS will alway be in the back of their minds, but at least now they have hope. They have the hope that they will live a long normal life and the hope that they will maybe date, fall in love, Netflix and chill on a Sunday afternoon with someone. In the 80’s and early 90’s hope was a luxury that a lot of gay men couldn’t afford.

Life returns to semi-normal if you don’t count the expense of the drug costs and the daily doses of medications, these are things that become routine. Now that HIV positive gay men are living longer what do they hope for now. Obviously I can’t speak for all of them or really any of them, but I imagine that some of them want a heathy dating life. Some may want to find a boyfriend settle down get married get that house with a white picket fence, maybe have a couple of kids and a dog. Live the “American Dream,” but I bet for SOME HIV positive men it’s hard for them to even try.

How many times has someone who’s undetectable started to get close with THAT guy? That crush from the office or the guy who stands next to you in line at Starbucks every morning. That guy you’re finally making a real connection with. The innocent flirting and the unmistakeable chemistry, not being able to concentrate because THAT guy is on your mind all the time. He’s sending all the right singles and admits that he feels the same way. You go on the date you’ve been waiting to go on with THAT guy. The flirting gets to that next level and you finally gather up the courage and tell him you’re HIV positive but undetectable, he pretends not to be taken aback, but you see it in his eyes. You finish your date on a positive note yet he declines the offer to come back to your place claiming he has an early day tomorrow. The next day you don’t hear from him, then three days go by then five. You don’t see him at Starbucks anymore. He doesn’t return your texts, but you knew all along he wouldn’t. You’ve been ghosted, and it fucking hurts like a symptom of the disease you don’t even have.

Look I get it, people get scared. HIV/AIDS has wrecked havoc on a community struggling for acceptance and just when it was starting to happen gay men started dying. The Reagan Administration did nothing at the time to address the epidemic and wouldn’t even utter the word “AIDS.” Lack of response or even acknowledgement from the Reagan White House only made the sigma of HIV/AIDS worse. Like a lot of people I lived through that time. As a teenager in the 1980’s who was growing up in a town so small we only had one traffic light, I automatically thought being gay was a death sentence. I fought my sexual identity until I couldn’t anymore. It was a fight with myself I’m glad I lost. Now there’s another fight happening, the fight to rid this community of the stigma of HIV.

In plain simple terms everyone can understand, if someone’s viral load is undetectable in their bloodstream then they are NOT able to transfer HIV to sexual partners. If you are one of those gay guys that have an issue with HIV positive guys get the fuck over it. They are just as much a part of the LGBTQ community as anyone else and just like our trans brothers and sisters or that kid who has been shunned by his family for coming out or any other person in this beautiful and tough community that we live in all HIV positive individuals need support from us all. HIV positive individuals also need the encouragement that we give everyone else in this community to live their truth.

The best weapon we had during the hight of the AIDS epidemic was education. People had to educate themselves that they couldn’t get AIDS from a toilet seat or drinking out of the same glass or even a kiss. Education is essential. I dated someone once who had cerebral palsy, I read up on what it was and how and what to expect and how to deal with certain things IF they came up, which they didn’t. If you get asked out by a guy who is HIV positive and he’s undetectable educate yourself on what that is and what to expect. Do it for yourself especially if you like him. But, even after everything that I’ve said if you still have an issue and you don’t want to go out with a person who has HIV, don’t ghost them. Have the courage to admit that you just don’t have any courage, it’s the least they deserve. Besides people living with HIV are forced to be brave everyday even when they don’t want to be, they deserve friends and lovers that are as brave as they are.

Does HIV Make Me Undateable? Part I

THE ONLY HIV/AIDS STIGMA IS THAT WHICH WE ALLOW.

What you allow is what will continue.

How you would want to be treated if you were HIV positive?

Normally guys don’t intend to hurt those living with HIV. Yet in referring to oneself as “clean” it is logical for me to assume that this means HIV equates to being “dirty”. Now I’m not saying that every HIV negative person has to choose to be sexually intimate with an HIV positive partner and I understand if an HIV negative person chooses not to be with an HIV positive sexual partner based solely on status, just as I understand if an HIV positive person chooses to be only with a partner that is also living with HIV. Still, choosing to use words or phrases that damage one another to highlight our individual preferences can only divide us further. Don’t allow your status control you. There are lots of people out there who are not afraid to date someone who is HIV positive.

I’m always open and upfront disclosing my status. There is a real stigma in being HIV positive, so it’s important to attach a face to the issue. People won’t even talk to you if they know you’re poz. Then you get the guys who have hyper-fetishized HIV. The gay men is small fringe of the gay community refer to getting HIV at a ‘gift’ and these men seek out exposure willingly. So as a practical reality, having HIV does present problems, but there are however, many men and women who are informed of the risks and who love us as we are. For those people that love us our HIV status does not matter.

“Does HIV make me Undateable?” I find too often the answer to this question is yes. I can’t tell you how often I have gotten to know someone and we had made what I thought was a deep ‘connection.’  Yet when things start to get serious and the subject of HIV came up the ‘connection’ I thought we had disappeared. Then the next thing you know I don’t hear from them any more. I often feel if a guy can’t handle this one aspect of me, then he can’t handle the rest of me and that is not okay. Someone who is not mature enough to handle a relationship with me because of my HIV status shows me that they are probably not mature enough to handle a relationship with anyone. I find that it’s not even worth the effort for me to waste my time, energy, and heart!

More often than not guys will tell me if only I was clean. I didn’t know I was dirty. I refuse to let rejection because of my HIV status make me feel that I am not worth being in a relationship.

“You can never learn to be the person you were before AIDS, or even before HIV, but maybe you can find the person who you want to become after it. Your status isn’t a part of your character…” BY: TYLER CURRY, MARCH 3RD, 2016 Op-Ed: Its Time to Let Go of AIDS