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My Life: Dating, Disclosure, and HIV
October 25, 2001 was a day that would change my life. As I walked to the office that afternoon and I already knew the yet to be confirmed outcome. It took less than 15 minutes to be informed that I was indeed HIV positive.
Upon receiving the news, I wondered if I would ever find love again?
Dating as an HIV positive African American man over the past 11 years has been educational to say the least. After taking a self-imposed 3 year hiatus from men after my diagnosis, I decided to get back out there and date. Prior to seeking intimacy again I first had to be comfortable with myself. This would take some time. At the time, I considered myself “damaged goods”.
Was I really ready to deal with the rejection that I was destine to encounter?
I pledged to myself that I would only deal in full disclosure moving forward. Sadly, my ex did not have the decency (or courage) to tell me about his own HIV status during our short-lived relationship. I did not want to repeat his mistake. The stigma of being an HIV positive person keeps many men (and women) silent. And while I do not agree with it I totally understand the silence. Silence can protect you when the truth may come back to harm you, literally. Who wants to live life being viewed as a pariah?
Dating in the age of HIV/AIDS has its challenges. I can remember meeting that first guy after my diagnosis and how my heart which had been closed for some time began to open up on the premise of “just what if”. But the weight of my disclosure dangling over my head pushed me to come clean with this guy before things got to hot and heavy. I had to tell him about my status after several weeks of dating. It was the right thing to do. To my surprise he did not run in the other direction as I anticipated.
Ironically, I’ve noticed in the 11 years of my “new phase” of dating that many adult men are not too informed about HIV even now 30+ years after the first case was diagnosed. After disclosing my status to one guy he responded “that is okay, I will just wear two condoms”. Hearing that comment I felt “less than… like a person with no real value.” We went on to date for almost two years. How about that?
In my own brokenness I wanted his love and affection so desperately that I took what I could get. Eventually, I grew to dislike him and we broke up. As the years have gone by I have dated guys that were both HIV positive and HIV negative. To my fortune I have not encountered rejection. What I have found is that few guys have initiated a conversation about HIV. I have always been the one to bring it up first. I still fear rejection as well as being stigmatized. But ironically, this fear has also helped me to grow.
To locate an HIV or STD testing site near you text your ZIP code to KNOWIT (566948). You also can call 800-CDC-INFO (800-232-4636) for assistance in locating a testing site.
Ronald Wadley resides in Chicago, IL and is a Contributor to healthyblackmen.org. He’s a veteran Financial Planner, avid traveler, and was diagnosed with HIV since 2001.