The full text of this article by Casey Halter first appeared on POZ.com here.
“I don’t want to lie anymore.”
Those were the words Robert Gillum thought when he first disclosed to his partner, Michael, in 1994. Having spent the previous seven years in the closet about having HIV—going city to city, job to job and lover to lover across the United States—Gillum recalls that day in Minneapolis as the first time he took responsibility for his status.
To many, the idea of Gillum, both a former crack user and sex worker, pursuing unprotected intimacies at the height of the epidemic brings to mind some of the darkest fears of AIDS. It was a time before modern HIV treatment made the disease manageable, and when people who knew their positive status were so stigmatized, disenfranchised and scared, they weren’t necessarily going to share the information.
But Michael’s response to the truth was not at all what Gillum expected. “He said ‘Thank you,’” Gillum recalls. Even though Michael was HIV negative, the two men decided to get together.
Disclosure is—and has always been—one of the most difficult topics to broach among people living with HIV. It’s been more than 30 years since the start of the epidemic, yet the fear of rejection, discrimination and social isolation still keeps many HIV-positive people from speaking out about their status.
Disclosure also takes a serious hit on your attempts to find true love. Recent POZ.com surveys show that two-thirds of our readers say their sexual confidence has declined since becoming HIV positive. Nearly 70 percent report having a sexual partner outright reject them because of HIV. Perhaps because of this, nearly one in 10 of our readers still say they never disclose their HIV status before a new sexual encounter.
However, as Gillum and many others have discovered, living and loving with HIV is not an impossible feat. For this article, four HIV-positive people share their tips on disclosing and navigating the relationships that follow.
To read the rest of the article go here.