Once you become poz, then what? Do you stop having sex, have judgmental thoughts, be unhappy, overthink, not go out, feel rejected, fearful and anxious?
All you wanted to do was go out and enjoy yourself, have some great sex and meet new people. When I was diagnosed with HIV, I was 21 years old and had lived three years in Sydney. Around this time, I’d split with my boyfriend who was 21 years older than me, and I wanted to try things sexually with different people. I was a normal sexually adventurous 21 year old but nothing out of control.
Today, at 22 years old, it has taken some time to deal with my diagnosis. I knew I couldn’t run from being HIV positive. I told the three or four friends I already felt sure of and they’ve been a great support to me.
My fears, anxiety, hurt, worries about the unknown or rejection, wondering if hot guys would still want to touch me, all haunted me. I wondered what would happen in the future and if everyone would say no to me or never want to meet up. Of course that can happen anyway for many reasons other than being HIV positive. We all get rejected at times – positive or not. Fears about being unloved and being anxious about rejection are common emotional experiences, and I wonder if we use HIV as an excuse? I think maybe we do at times.
I know I can’t hide, suppress or ignore HIV. What now? My first step was to find a doctor I felt comfortable and confident with. I went to a few doctors and found they didn’t fit very well with me, but now I’ve found a great HIV specialist who seems right for me.
Counselling has been really helpful to me. Finding a HIV specialist counsellor to help talk things through with you can help find a way forward, or finding a support group of other people in similar shoes to you. I also needed to build some confidence within myself and looked for a general life coach who has been really helpful to give me some structure to help me move forward. She looked at my good points and suggested some action steps to follow. We started with small steps and built on that. The major thing she explained was that being positive is not the worst thing in the world. People are still going to like me for myself, and if they don’t, she suggested I just let them go, as they are not worthy of my time! I discovered that HIV showed me a new way of finding myself, mentally, emotionally, sexually and spiritually.
Then there was the online world. Where do you start? Being honest always worked for me, whether in my profile, during a conversation or just before meeting someone. Sometimes an online interaction doesn’t give me what I’m looking for, but I remember it’s only an online exchange through a computer screen. I do what I can to move things into the real world and meet up with people, go to social groups, meet over coffee, at the gym, in the club or out and about. Sure, there are some people who are still frightened to hear the word HIV but there is no need to beat yourself up over becoming positive. Accept, acknowledge, be aware and move forward.
So, how do you move forward? Some simple tools that have helped me have been about being honest and loyal to myself. To think through what my values are and what I look for in someone else. You will find people who like you and want to be with you. Good foundations are a good start, and I think it helps to take your time to find out what works and makes you happy.
Published for Talkabout Online #185 – March 2016