The thing I find hardest about living with HIV, is managing relationships. Being rejected after disclosing my status to a new sexual partner or boyfriend hurts. The expression on some people’s face is so full of disdain, it’s awful. People have told me that I must have been asking for it, that I somehow deserved it. In short, it’s not easy. I don’t know anymore if I should tell people, who I should tell, when I should tell them, or how I should say it. I don’t even talk about it at work, where people tolerate the fact that I’m gay, but where no one knows my HIV status. If only they knew. I’m afraid I’d lose my job.
Eric, age 52
People are usually stunned when I tell them I’m HIV positive. They say “but you’re so young!” or “it doesn’t show” as if age made any difference, or you could guess someone’s HIV status by what they look like. People often feel sorry for me, as though my life was completely ruined because of HIV. They don’t understand that living with HIV is hardest because of discrimination, segregation, and people’s negative attitudes.
François, age 22
Being gay and HIV positive in a rural area is not easy. I tried to hide my status so I wouldn’t be rejected. I only told one person, a guy I was interested in, when we first started seeing each other. After that he wanted nothing more to do with me, and the worst thing is, he told all his friends. In a small town like ours, news travels fast. Now, people point me out, and no one wants to be seen with me because they’re afraid everyone will think they’re HIV positive too.
Jean-Marc, age 37
I’ve lived with my boyfriend Paul for six years. He’s HIV negative. When we met, I told him my status right from the beginning, and he had no problem with it. What was hard was the reaction of other people, especially his friends and family. They don’t understand why he wants to be with me, as if I were damaged goods. I’ve always been open about my status. I work for an organization that fights against HIV, and I’m active in the community. People often think Paul is HIV positive too, just because we’re together. I feel bad for him sometimes, because he’s discriminated against because of me.
Frederic, age 44
I posted my profile online to try and meet someone. I came across the profile of a guy who seemed great, so I sent him a message. He wrote back and said “forget it.” I was surprised and upset, and I wrote back to ask for an explanation. He responded that he’d read “seeking a clean, healthy guy” on my profile. He said he was HIV positive AND healthy (in fact, he was a muscular, good-looking guy and seemed to be in better shape than me ☺). He found the word clean insulting, as though he was trash. I had never thought about it that way. I responded that I was looking for an HIV negative guy because I wanted a serious relationship and I eventually wanted to stop using condoms with my boyfriend. He told me I just had to write “seeking a man who is HIV negative like me, for a serious relationship.” He really made me think twice about the words I chose, and actually we’re still in touch from time to time.
Jeremy, age 27