Just*in Time: Dating Sites & Living with HIV

Photo by Jessica Bolton

So, here we are again. It’s time for that commercialized holiday we call Valentine’s Day, or Lover’s Day for those of us who don’t like St. Valentine. Being infected with HIV can be rough if you are looking for a little romance, but what can be rougher is being rejected because of it. Personally, I can say I was lucky to find my soulmate and husband but not many of us are that lucky. Many of us have now decided that we will only date other people living with HIV. I asked a couple of people why would they only date HIV-positive people and I heard people say that they like the fact that the person they are dating knows what they are going through, that they like not using a condom and that they feel more supported; all these factors were quite interesting to me. When I was dating, it was hard to disclose, but I did eventually. As I became more comfortable with my HIV status, it became easier and easier to disclose to my partners. Also, now that PrEP and U=U have come into play should we as HIV-positive people only date other HIV-positive people?

I did a little bit more research and looked into HIV dating sites. Of course, a lot of them catered to both HIV-positive and negative singles. There were many choices and most had the typical dating questions for singles like, Do you plan on getting married? Do you want kids? What are you looking for in your partner? But also they had questions on whether or not those looking for love were undetectable or on PrEP.

I’ve dated HIV-negative and positive men before and to me there was no difference. When I’ve been rejected because of my HIV status I’ve learned to say in my own head, “FUCK YOU….NEXT!!” Honestly, if you can’t say that, chances are you are going to beat yourself up or at least, to a small degree, feel badly because of the rejection. Just say, “FUCK YOU” and keep it moving. Why waste your time feeling bad about something you have no control over? Ignorance is bliss and now you should let them go in peace.

I started thinking about HIV-positive singles sites again and I asked myself, “Are they really necessary? And, if so, can someone tell me why?”

In my opinion my answer is, Yes, they are necessary. One of the main reasons why I would think that positive dating sites are necessary is that people are tired of rejection. I know plenty of people that go through anxiety just by going on a date and having to think about how they are going to disclose their HIV status to someone who is negative. Then you have to think about how stigma affects a person. People do not want to be looked down upon because of their HIV status. So they feel that they have no pressure about disclosing if they go on a positive dating website. There is no added pressure of lying or disclosing one’s status just to find love.

Another question arose from my research: Why should HIV-positive people have to feel as though they have to go to these dating websites to feel a certain level or acceptance? My answer is we should not have to. There is too much education on HIV out there for ignorant people to reject you because of your HIV status. It is wrong. But we all have our “preferences,” don’t we? Again, let us not agonize over ignorant people who obviously only see the virus rather than seeing you for the beautiful person you are. You can only be who you are.

Trust me, someone is going to love you regardless of your HIV status. I didn’t think I would find love, but I will have been married for ten years in August and we have been together for about thirteen years. In those thirteen years we have adopted two beautiful sons (now twenty-two and twenty-0ne years old), my husband supported me while getting my doctorate and we continue on this journey together. It has been and will continue to be an adventure.

And status had nothing to do with it!

Justin B. Terry-Smith, MPH, DrPH, has been fighting the good fight since 1999. He’s garnered recognition and awards for his work, but he’s more concerned about looking for new ways to transform society for the better than resting on his laurels. He started up in gay rights and HIV activism in 2005, published an HIV-themed children’s book, I Have A Secret (Creative House Press) in 2011, and created his own award-winning video blog called, “Justin’s HIV Journal”: justinshivjournal.blogspot.com. Visit his main Web site at www.justinbsmith.com. He welcomes your questions at [email protected].