Imagine a couple. Let’s call them Todd and Carl. They love one another like crazy and continue to be amazed at how much they have in common.
They work out together at the same gym, enjoy watching the same nerdy, sci-fi and fantasy series on Netflix, and share a love for Japanese and Korean food.
They seemed to effortlessly merge their groups of friends when they got together and share the same values when it comes to working hard and building their careers.
Although neither has popped the question yet, they’re likely heading toward marriage somewhere down the line. They love, trust and support each other.
Oh, and the sex? The sex is mind-blowing. It helps that Todd’s around 20% top and 80% bottom and Carl’s the opposite. They just click. They make that ridiculously cute couple that others envy.
Sounds good, right?
Except it never happened. Despite both catching each other’s attention on an app, Todd and Carl never went for that first date. They never made it to the bedroom stage, let alone realize that they both shared a dream of adopting a kid and trekking across South America one day.
See, Todd stated on his profile that he’s HIV positive. And when he messaged Carl, he wasn’t rude, but he simply responded, “Sorry, not quite what I’m looking for.”
And with that, a relationship that would have changed both their lives disappeared into the ether. Mr Right was pushed right back out of the door.
A few weeks ago, I wrote a story on Queerty about an HIV positive man who finds himself often – sometimes rudely – rejected on apps.
Some of those who commented on the article appeared to feel attacked by the piece.
“It is insane to shame people for attempting to protect their own health,” said one.
“Everybody has the absolute right to make whatever decisions they want about their own sex life, period, full stop, no qualifiers,” said another.
Others agreed that everyone has the right to take responsibility for their sexual health and, for some, this includes not having sex with people who they know to be HIV positive.
I don’t disagree that everyone should take responsibility for their own sexual health. My purpose in writing this is merely to ask you to give a thought to the potential consequences of your particular decisions.
If someone is HIV positive, knows their status, is on effective medication and has consistently had an undetectable viral load, they cannot pass on the virus. PrEP is also widely available in the US and several other countries to prevent people from acquiring HIV. And condoms are also, of course, widely available.
I know a couple of long-term serodiscordant couples. A serodiscordant relationship is one in which one partner is HIV positive and one is HIV negative. Single myself, I look upon these relationships with awe. Not because of the HIV side of things, but just because I’m always impressed and inspired by any longterm couples.
I can’t imagine one without the other, or what would have happened if a fear of acquiring HIV, or a decision to reject someone for being HIV positive, had prevailed.
When friends go through bad break-ups, we console them by telling them there are plenty more fish in the sea. There is a presumption – perhaps even an arrogance – that we can just move on to the next guy and that he might be “the one.”
Well, you don’t meet many of “the ones” during life, actually. A survey by AARP last year found that “57% of gay men over the age of 45 are single compared to 39% of lesbians.”
There are many reasons for this, and yes, plenty of us are content being “self-partnered”, as actress Emma Watson recently put it. But many others are less happy at not being in a relationship.
So yes, take responsibility for your health and do what you feel is best for you. But do so with an awareness of the potential consequences of those decisions. Refusing to entertain the idea of dating an HIV-positive person might just mean you miss out on the love of your life.
If you find yourself single and contemplating why, bear in mind it might be because you blocked ‘Mr Right’ when you read he was HIV positive on Grindr.
Of course, some will say, “My perfect man doesn’t HIV!”. Well, I hope you’re not too old before you realize: Nobody’s perfect.
David Hudson is a freelance contributor to Queerty. @davidhudson_uk