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You are out on the town and a handsome man catches your eye. He is breathtaking, and in your heart you pray that his conversational skills match his physique. Your heart skips a beat when he is able to complete a full sentence, and your mind instantly conjures images of your wedding on an island in Greece: cobalt blue waters, warm breezes, and white doves released in celebration of your union. You’ll be enjoying a long life together filled with happiness, love, and sexual satisfaction.
That fantasy, however, can never be reality without first talking about sex, condoms, HIV, sexually transmitted diseases, and more. Isn’t that a mood killer? Why do we always have to talk about this stuff? And when are we supposed to? During the first conversation?
There are many reasons why people — even in this day of instant communication — still have a hard time verbally expressing themselves. If a man is living with HIV, he may think, “If I tell too soon, this person I just met may share my business with the world.” That is definitely reason for hesitancy, but it doesn’t negate the fact that the talk needs to occur. It is also safe to assume that no one wants to be rejected for something so common within the gay community. Amazingly enough, however, there are many gay men who will have anonymous sex with men whose status they do not know, but then vehemently refuse to date or be in a relationship with people who are openly living with HIV, regardless of whether they’re in care or not. That speaks volumes about HIV-related stigma and why so many men refuse to disclose. It also says a lot about the kinds of conversations we have, and the ones we don’t.
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