Dating while HIV-positive

caines | 11/2/2011, 9:53 a.m.

My personal struggle with dating while HIV-positive

Earlier in my adulthood, I met a guy who I actually thought was the one. He was charming, educated and sexy; we had great conversations and an even better friendship. But, as happens, a problem arose: He asked me to stop educating people about HIV and to cover up my AIDS-awareness ribbon and live a "normal" life. The crazy thing is that his request was not the problem; I believe in freedom of speech, and he certainly had a right to his opinion. The problem was that those words came from one of my own. No, not a Black man--one who is HIV positive. I have never stopped dating since being diagnosed with HIV eight years ago. HIV does not limit me from doing anything. I do have options when it comes to men, and when dating, just as in the classroom, I prefer multiple choice: I date men who are HIV positive as well as those who are HIV negative. There are pros and cons to dating both. But while I don't discriminate because of a man's serostatus, I would rather have sex with an HIV-positive man so that I do not have to worry about infecting him. Although I use protection, nothing is 100 percent certain, and my conscience causes me to be very careful not to transmit the virus. On the flip side, dating an HIV-negative man means that I never feel the need to babysit: "Have you taken your meds, boo?" Nor do I have to worry who would be there for the kids if we had a family and both of us got really sick from AIDS. Positive men seem to understand what I go through; for instance, I take my medication every day, but I do not like it or the side effects, and I constantly complain. An HIV-positive man will usually say to me, "I know, baby, it is hard. But you know what you need to do." An HIV-negative man tends to say, "Girl, quit complaining and take your medicine"--as if he knows what it feels like to take 2,555 pills a year! That is, HIV-positive men tend to say something motivational, while HIV-negative men often piss me off. Then again, HIV-negative men seem to believe that the fact that I share my story means I am very honest and open. They like that about me. Sometimes HIV-positive men believe I'm too open. It's like I can't win. My ideal guy would exhibit the best characteristics of both types of men. But no matter who I'm dating, people assume that the men I date are HIV positive, too, because I talk about my HIV status on national TV. These men wish that people wouldn't make that assumption, and they certainly don't want to be questioned about it. I have yet to meet an HIV-positive man who is where I am about my HIV diagnosis: open and honest. Being public about my HIV status has definitely had an impact on my dating life, but I continue to educate people about the disease. No matter what type of guy I am with, relationships are hard work. And that is exactly why, at least for now, I am single and still trying to mingle. By Marvelyn BrownSpecial to the NNPA