You start the relationship off with safe sex and then you work out the rest later on. When you’re making love, HIV doesn’t matter. I sleep with people who really want to sleep with me, not anyone. The second year of being positive was when I changed my morals. Before I was twenty I did sleep with a lot of girls. I had fun. Now I’m afraid to even do it. In the last five years it’s like I’m terrified to make a move. I need the girl to jump on me and then she’s in trouble.
I thought it was over. I thought it was 100 per cent gone and for the first eighteen months I was like, ‘don’t even think about coming near me’. Then I started to want sex again, but I was really not comfortable with myself. Then just recently I met the most delightful man and wham, it works again like I’m 16. It’s just so amazing. That was like a last piece of a puzzle that I didn’t foresee ever happening.
One of the boys I’m seeing is negative and one is positive. You know, in the back of your mind you always think ‘Oh my god’. You don’t want to give it to anybody. When I have sex with the one who is positive, we bareback. That really does take a lot of stress away.
Sex is not a major drawcard any more. I think it’s that whole disclosure thing. I certainly don’t go looking for relationships. You assume that people are very cluey, but I’ve had instances where I’ve picked someone up, took them home, disclosed, vroom they were out the door. It really does your head in when things like that happen. You just think, ‘Why bother?’
With other pos people I still sometimes like to use condoms. I like the idea of not having to use condoms with pos people, but there are times I think we need to, because we just don’t know where they’re at.
I’ve had vast and varying experiences around negotiating sex. One time this guy just pushed into me and I went into ultimate fear. Then I relaxed, thinking ‘Oh well, he must be positive’. Then the fear come flooding back: ‘What if he thinks I’m negative?’ I pushed him off me and left. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him. I felt really horrid for about four days. Then I thought, that person didn’t even attempt to put a condom on. He didn’t even ask me.
I am in a sero-discordant relationship and became positive from having sex outside the relationship. We did have issues in our sex life prior to my diagnosis, but it has added a major complication.
As human beings, we all take risk behaviours. I think that you need to think about what is motivating you, what you want out of sex, rather than just reacting to the feelings. Think about what it is that you want and whether sex is the way you are going to best achieve that. Is it affection that you are after, or company, or the hope of a partner? Or maybe it is just sex; that’s fine as well. It can be demoralising for people sometimes on the hunt for sex when it is not actually what they are after. That’s why it is not really satisfying.
In NSW we are supposed to disclose before having sex, but I don’t think that people need to feel guilty about breaking the law in a casual sex situation, unless there are going to be unsafe practices. I think that everyone needs to take responsibility for their own safety, rather then it being an onus on the positive person to disclose. If you think that you might want to see this person again, it’s probably better to get it over and done with early, because it brings more complications to tell them later.
The thing that changed for me was that I had to take on an awful lot of responsibility around my casual sex environments. I had to be mindful of what I was doing and I could not be out of my mind on substances. I had to be conscious about what I was doing. I never, ever wanted someone else to have to go through what I went through.
I feel really cynical about using condoms and I’m using them less. That does bother me, and I still draw the boundary of not coming inside a guy. Even if they are urging me to, I will not do it. I wish there was more easy and simple rules.
Because I am fearful of telling people I have HIV, I avoid certain sexual practices. If I feel good about myself and don’t care about disclosing, I just disclose and think ‘What the fuck’, if they walk away from me. And if they don’t, fine. I have had the experience a number of times, that I have disclosed and HIV negative guys have still wanted me to fuck them without a condom.
The conclusion that I have come to now is that disclosing really depends on each sexual scenario that the individual find himself or herself in. That is a really hard thing.
At the end of 2001 I started dating a man and, when it started to get to the stage where it was probably going to get sexual, I told him I have HIV. He was really surprised, but he was very open and quite knowledgeable about it. We did have sex and it was a wonderful physical experience, but it was also a very emotional experience for me, partly because he wanted to have sex with me in spite of the HIV.
We had a very rich and fulfilling sexual life for about eight months and then he dropped a bombshell on me one day: he said that he wanted to break it off because he found it difficult that I had a child. He said he loved me and he wanted some time to himself to think about it. Three weeks later, we met again, were sexual again, and he told me that the main reason was really the HIV. During those three weeks he had been to get tested and after he had tested negative he had realised how much he didn’t want to become positive.
After that we definitely broke it off but the funny thing is that he’d been tested negative and still we had sex that weekend before we parted. After that we had no contact for three months, but then we reconnected. On several occasions, he had sex with me without using a condom. I didn’t stop him because I wanted it and I knew that he knew what he was doing. I didn’t want to infect him obviously, but I know that the risk from female to male is quite low.
I haven’t seen him since. The last time I saw him he said that he had strong feelings for me, otherwise he wouldn’t be having sex with me without a condom. That seems a reasonable statement, but I have found it all very confusing and upsetting. I’m wondering, does he not love me because of the HIV? I’m not saying that this friendship would have worked out if I didn’t have HIV, but obviously HIV is an issue. He said he couldn’t imagine having to use a condom for the rest of his life. I said ‘Well if you really love me, then you would’. Now that he’s had unprotected sex with me, maybe he thinks that going back to condoms is hopeless, so therefore end of story. Maybe I’ll never know.
When I was first diagnosed, the thought of passing HIV onto someone else absolutely horrified me. I went through the most terrible guilt because I was no longer in the country I had been living in, I couldn’t tell people — did I infect anyone? For a year that was just awful. I swore if I was going to have sex, casual or otherwise, it was never going to be until I told the person that I was positive. In the second year, I was still desperate. I thought that I couldn’t bring myself to discuss this with someone that I’d just met. Those two years were quite difficult. After that I just gradually lost interest in it.
When I got my diagnosis, my partner took it very calmly. He was tested and he was negative, but it was really hard to start negotiating safe sex. It was easier just not to go there for a while.
After eleven years and two children, we have still never got around the safe sex issue. My partner doesn’t want to use condoms, but that brings up my fear of infecting him each time we have sex. I have a low viral loadA measurement of the quantity of HIV RNA in the blood. Viral load blood test results are expressed as the number of copies (of HIV) per milliliter of blood plasma. and we make sure there’s lots of lube, so I don’t think that he’s at risk, but it’s still something that niggles at me. I would like him to be tested a little more regularly. I feel I carry a bit of that burden. If he gets a cold, I worry about it.
My partner is HIV negative. I was diagnosed before I even met him. Within two weeks of meeting him I told him and it was fine.
It can be rocky in a relationship where one partner is negative. The main thing is to get over your guilt feelings. I sometimes feel guilty and wonder what it would be like for him if he’d met someone who was negative instead of me. I sometimes think it would be easier if we were both positive, but my partner’s way of thinking is that, if he hadn’t met me, he’d still be meeting people who could be positive. You can’t lead your life thinking “What if?”
I was very fortunate, when I was diagnosed, to have someone with me, a woman I’d just started a relationship with, so I was able to share the news with her and wasn’t just carrying it on my own.
Sex wasn’t a major factor in our relationship. We just loved each other’s company. Since breaking up with her I’ve had trouble finding someone else I felt as comfortable with.
I’ve played out all kinds of other possibilities. I met an Irish woman at an AIDS conference and we email each other. I went to the country my parents come from and tried to meet a woman there. I got involved with a woman here in Australia recently. We went out for a short time. It didn’t work out, but it was useful because I figured out that I have finally got past the point of being really desperate to be with someone. It is a priority for me to find a partner, but I think I can be comfortable on my own. I’d rather be on my own than be with the wrong person.