It's weird because before I used go on dates and think, ‘Ooh, I hope this guy likes my personality, looks and interests’, and now I just think, ‘Well, I hope he is okay with me being HIV-positive’.
As I'm writing this article I'm nearing the end of my ten-day blitz tour around Europe with some amazing people who just seven days ago were a bunch of strangers, and now some are my friends. I feel like we are a mini family. I'm sitting by a rapid lake overlooking the Swiss Alps and thinking how far I've come since discovering my status - and I'm proud of that. I disclosed my status to a few people on this trip who have been awesome and really understanding. They haven't judged me, but then I suppose they’re not dating me.
Now, when it comes to my personal experience with dating, I've had a variety of reactions. I remember my first date after splitting with my ex-partner. I’m normally quite confident on dates, but this time I was a nervous wreck. I was so scared, and all I could think was, ‘When do I tell him?’ You question yourself, ‘Do I do it now, or wait a couple of dates?’ Then you begin to question when on that date is it suitable to tell them?
I decided to go down the route of online dating. I hid my status on my online profile and thought I would let people get to know me as a person then I would disclose my status to them.
My first date was with a guy called Jamie. He was younger than me and I told him after a couple of dates. He was negative and said he was fine with it.
After a few more dates we were becoming close and it got to the point of intimacy but he found an excuse to put it off. I asked if it was because of my status and he said to me it wasn't, but I wasn’t convinced because he couldn't actually give me any valid excuse.
How could I blame him? I began to wonder how I would react. I had never come across someone who was positive whilst I was negative, but I began to wonder what I would have done in the same situation. I thought I would probably have done the same thing. Especially if I wasn't educated on HIV, which at that time I wasn't as much as I thought I was.
Eventually he just stopped contacting me. So I thought, ‘Well, that was just the first person’, so feeling determined I went online again and found another date.
This guy was also negative and I decided I wasn't going to waste any time and told him immediately. He said he was fine with it and that he had dated a positive guy in the past. So I thought, ‘Okay cool’. We got close and feelings started to develop. We got intimate and things were great. He was a lot older than me so I thought maybe it was down to maturity, but after a few months we both realised it wasn’t really working out and grew apart, for reasons unrelated to my status.
Months passed and I began to wonder if I was becoming too picky, but then I began dating a guy who was positive. He was tall, dark, and handsome and everything I loved in a man. We got very close very quickly and the whole act of intimacy was relaxed as I obviously wasn't in fear I would pass on anything to him with us both being HIV-positive.
Still not on medication, I'm not undetectable, but we had a mutual understanding and things seemed so perfect, but this changed quickly when I realised he wanted an open relationship. I have nothing against open relationships, they just aren’t for me. I'm also a very jealous person so knew this just wasn’t what I wanted. So again I was back to square one.
There's great stigma here in England, as I'm sure is in other places in the world, where you come across a lot of people who think just because both of you are positive, you may as well go crazy as it were, and sleep with a load of guys together. This worried me as I began to wonder if I would find someone who was positive who would be happy in a monogamous relationship.
In the interim I dated other guys, both negative and positive. Alas, they didn't last, for one reason or another. I had met guys on nights out and told them straight away, some were up front said they don't think they could date someone positive and I said that I understood and I was fine with that.
Every once in a while, though, I would question myself and ask, ‘Is it REALLY okay though?’ Maybe some of you guys reading this can help me answer this question, as I really don't know.
After a string of failed dates I am still single. I am happy as I am, but ideally I would like a relationship, however it's not the be all and end all because I'm not in one yet. I just need to find my Prince Charming, be that someone positive or negative. The rule is to treat people the way you wish to be treated, so don’t make snap judgements. Don't assume that every man out there is going to run a mile the minute you disclose your status and just as importantly you shouldn’y judge them for being negative. Trust me, I've seen it happen. It's a very sad but very true fact of life. This does happen!
We don't judge people for their race, gender or sexuality and this should also be the case for someone's status.
As the old saying goes, 'Honesty is the best policy,' and if someone doesn't want you for who you are then they don't deserve you and you can do better. We all have our special person out there, we just need to find them!