Dating an HIV Positive Gay Man

After ages of denial and discrimination, finally developed societies are waking up to the right to sexuality of its citizens with the result that it has become possible for gays to live and love the person of their choice. Unfortunately though  combination of social, economic and cultural factors has put gay population at a higher risk of contracting HIV as compared to other population groups. In fact according to a factsheet published on the website of US Center for Disease Control, gay and bisexual men — referred to in CDC surveillance systems as men who have sex with men or MSM — of all races continue to be the risk group most severely affected by HIV based on the most recent data between 2006 and 20091. However this does not mean that you reject a potential partner purely on the basis of his HIV status. If you are gay and the guy you are dating is HIV positive, here are a few things to keep in mind.

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Test yourself

There are two situations where you may find yourself involved with an HIV positive gay partner. The first and relatively harmless situation is where you may be attracted towards a certain guy only to be told that he is HIV positive as you start dating him. Another more serious situation is when you have been going out with someone for some time and then he is diagnosed as HIV positive. In case of the latter, if you have been sexually intimate with each other, it is crucial that you get yourself tested as well. Once you know the truth about your own health, you will not only be able to make the correct choices in the relationship but more importantly start your own treatment, if required.

Go on casual dates

The actions which part of normal dating behavior are highly unlikely to cause you to be affected by the virus. Since the transmission of the HIV takes place only through exchange of certain body fluids, it is completely safe to hold your partner's hands, sit and walk beside him and even hug and embrace him. It is also completely safe for you to share food and drinks as well as eating utensils. However your partner may have to keep off certain foods and most definitely drinks and cigarettes during treatment for AIDS. So when planning a date keep in mind these restrictions and do not engage in activities that can be tiring or physically dangerous for your partner.

To kiss or not

The fact that HIV is transmitted through specific body fluids has brought kissing, especially the kind that is known as wet kissing, into focus. The CDC website2 is quite categorical that the highest concentration of HIV virus resides in blood, semen, vaginal fluid and bodily fluid containing blood. The CDC website clarifies that the possibility of transmission of HIV/AIDS depends on what kind of kissing involved. Closed mouth kissing where there is no exchange of saliva is completely safe and there is no risk of infection even when being kissed by a HIV-infected person. However in case of open mouth kissing particularly ‘French kissing’, the saliva might contain traces of blood which can theoretically transmit HIV from the infected to the non-infected partner. This is particularly likely when the HIV-infected person has sore, bleeding gums as a result of which the saliva might contain blood. So even though chances of HIV/AIDS transmission by deep, open-mouth kissing are low as compared to sexual activity, still it is theoretically possible. However closed mouth kissing involves no danger of transmission.

Practice safe sex

If you wish to move further than casual dating towards a physically intimate relationship with an HIV-infected person, it is crucial that you and your partner discuss and practice safe sex. Let your partner know the last time you were tested and gently ask the same of him. Don’t perceive such talk as inhibiting passion, rather see it as a way of building trust and health, on which ultimately all great sex depends. Since your partner is HIV negative, it is best if you can entirely refrain from penetrative sexual intercourse and limit acts of intimacy to kissing, caressing, touching and mutual masturbation. However if there is sexual penetration - whether oral, vaginal or anal - take protective measures so that you can minimize the likelihood of transmission of the HIV virus from him to you. The best way to go about this is through the proper usage of condoms and lubricants. This includes checking for the expiry date of the condoms, proper handling and tearing of the packaging, as well as the correct method of wearing the condoms.

Address your concerns

In a sero-discordant relationship – where one partner is HIV positive and the other is not – it is only natural that there is some anxiety. Just like you are worried about your health and the future of the relationship, your partner too may have the same concerns. In order to minimize complexities, it is best to lay out some sexual ground rules as soon as you move from casual dating to a relationship. Agree to the condition that slip ups and mishaps, though they make for spontaneity, will not be allowed. Also you as the non-HIV-positive partner need to be honest with yourself as to whether you will be able to make a few sacrifices for your lover. Keep in mind that still in many societies a gay relationship is hard to sustain and coupled with a HIV positive status, you may have to deal with some tough situations. If you feel overwhelmed by all the concerns, try and go for some couples counseling. This will not only help you both deal with the anxiety of the present situation but also acquaint you with ways to meet future challenges. Finally listen to your heart since at the end of the day your risk of contracting HIV is no more in a sero-discordant relationship than it is playing the field.