I have a problem and I'm not sure what to do. I am a 35-year-old gay man who has been HIV-positive for 10 years. My doctor put me on meds right away and I have always been diligent about taking them on schedule. My viral load has been undetectable for the past 10 years because of this and I have never had any health problems due to my condition. I never felt the need to disclose my HIV status to partners because I am usually on the receiving end and I always play safe. I recently met a guy online and we hooked up. The chemistry was super intense and we both had a couple of drinks in us and I let him fuck me without a condom.
I'm not worried about him contracting HIV from me as my viral load is undetectable and I was catching. I know that sounds lame but I have had relationships in the past where the other person knew of my status and was okay with fucking me without condoms and no one sero-converted because of it.
The problem is that we are starting to develop feelings for each other and things are getting serious. We have a lot in common and I could see us spending a long time together. In order for us to have a relationship I have to tell him but I am afraid of the consequences. I have added him as a friend on a social networking site that happens to have most of my family and friends on it as well. None of my family and only a few of my friends know o my HIV status. I am afraid that if I tell him and he doesn't take it well that he will freak and post it online or that he will have me arrested or sue me. Can I be arrested and/or sued? Should I run the other way and let him move on or should I tell him and hope for his understanding and a possible relationship? Either way his heart will be broken. I know mine already is.
My response—and the ensuing email exchange—after the jump...
Did you see this posted earlier today on Slog?
You acted foolishly, and you owe this guy an apology. But you didn't put him at any significant risk of HIV exposure. As for your legal exposure, check your local laws. But I would urge you, if at all possible, to come clean. If he freaks, he freaks. If he outs you to your friends and family as positive, well, there's not much you can do about that. But you can't have a relationship with this guy without telling him you're positive, and the sooner you do that, the likelier you are to salvage this relationship.
And there's a lesson in your experience, PA, for you and everyone else on earth: we should treat everyone we sleep with like a potential long-term partner... because you never know who's going to shake out as a long-term possibility. If you wanna keep your options open—and you wanna—you need to avoid secrets and betrayals-of-trust. Even with guys you think are one-nighters.—Dan
Thank You. I have always been one of your greatest advocates/pushers. Your advice is always intelligent, no-bullshit, to the point and sorry-if-it-hurts-your-feelings-but-deal-with-it. I have mad respect for you. Thank You again for your advice and the link. I have a big talk to prepare for.—PA
Thanks for the compliments. Can I ask if he asked if you were positive? Did you guys discuss safety?
And, again, going into the future... I would urge you to disclose. Hopefully he'll take your after-the-fact disclosure with, um, grace and gratitude (you could just slink away and never speak to him again), forgive you your trespass, get tested, assess the risks he's been taking, and continue to see you. But if he doesn't want to see you anymore, and if you find yourself suddenly single again, this isn't a bridge you have to cross in the future or a relationship crisis you have to face down so long as you disclose. You don't have to disclose to casual/anonymous sex partners, so long as you're strict(er) about using protection. But you ALWAYS have to disclose before you let someone—anyone—have unprotected anal sex with you. Even if your viral load is undetectable, even if you're catching. Look at it this way: you'll only scare off guys you're well rid of.—Dan
He didn't ask but he did mention that he was clean when I was hesitating to let him inside. We did not discuss safety beforehand. We had a brief hook up the day before where I blew him in his car and then the next day we had marathon sex for 16 hours off and on (taking breaks to eat and drink and shower and nap). I have never had that much sex in one day in my entire life. We havent hooked up again because I have been making excuses (we live an hour apart but he is moving to my town). We talk constantly and have so much in common it's insane.
I know how busy you are and I want to say Thank You for the quick response because I needed your advice before we got together again. I am seeing him on Monday. I was planning on bringing a bottle of tequila. I figure we may both need a shot after this one, or before. Unless you don't think that is a good idea.—PA
No tequila shots before, but perhaps you could offer one after. And I would have this conversation in person, as soon as possible. Why not drive out to see him on his turf? It would demonstrate, symbolically, your recognition that you're the one who has to make amends here, that you're reaching out to him.
And for all intents and purposes... you are "clean." Or clean enough. Zero viral load, you were the receptive partner, his risk here is very, very minimal. But you were wrong to let him fuck your ass, heat of the moment notwithstanding. Apologize. Listen. Recognize that his anger, if he's angry, is justified. And if you can do it without being or sounding defensive, point out that 30-40% of gay guys who are infected don't know it. He could be positive, particularly if he's in the habit of initiating unprotected intercourse with guys he's just met. That doesn't excuse your behavior, PA; you done him wrong. But he done himself wronger. If he's as wonderful as you seem to think, he will hopefully be able to see that, once the anger burns off.
And, again, check your local laws—hell, check with an actual local lawyer—before you come clean.—Dan