By Thomas Whitfield
HIV-related stigma is broadly defined as “negative beliefs, feelings and attitudes towards people living with HIV,” and unfortunately there is still a lot of it. In a place like NYC, where there is such a large gay community, you might think that HIV-related stigma would be low, but that isn’t the case. People with HIV experience negative messages about their status constantly and in a lot of different ways. It could be that guy that doesn’t want to go on another date after you tell him or ghosts you on apps. For a lot of people, disclosing your status can be difficult, and there is no “right” way to do it. Here are a few questions you sent in.
Last month I tested positive and wasn’t expecting it. I didn’t freak out, but just went through the motions. I’m still on my parents’ insurance, and it didn’t hit me until later they are going to see my meds. They’ve been very supportive about my sexuality…but IDK what to say to them. – Gay, Male, 23
Thumbs up on getting connected to care so quickly. A lot of research shows that although getting on meds at the same time as testing positive can feel overwhelming, in the long run it’s what’s best for you. Give your doc a call and see exactly what’s going to show up on the insurance forms—sometimes it varies. Then you have two options. One is don’t say anything and wait to see what they do. Two is to provide them with some knowledge. HIV is not what it used to be, but for a lot of parents they only know what they grew up with. Get them info on what it means to be both HIV-positive and healthy. It sounds like they’ve been supportive in the past, so they may be now too.
I’m poz and trying to date, which is fucking rough. If I wait too long to tell guys they get mad, but I also don’t want to tell everyone before the first date, because it’s my business, and there might not even be a second date. Is there a perfect time? I’m so tired of this crap. – Gay, Male, 32
Some people would rather tell others from the beginning and think, “If they’re going to reject me for this, then fuck them.” I think that’s great, because it shows self-love and confidence. However, it’s not the “right” choice for everyone, and I also completely understand why you might not want to tell everyone on a first date. There are a lot of first dates that don’t have seconds, and nothing to do with status. So, I think it’s up to whatever you’re most comfortable with. The one thing I’d recommend is telling them before engaging in sex that could lead to transmission (as I’d say for any STI). This is also an area where some guys might need a little more information on being undetectable and on PrEP. If a guy likes you but finds out you’re positive and breaks it off, he might be kind of an asshole, and you don’t want to date him anyway.