Picture it, my fellow singleistas: you’re at an event for your sorority when a handsome stranger with a megawatt smile catches your eye. Your glances tangle, then you look away in a ploy to appear shy and demure. (You? Yeah right.) You suck in your tummy, push up your boobs, and poke out your booty, feeling totally uncomfortable but looking irresistibly hot, and he comes — slowly, methodically, instinctively — closer to where you’re standing.
He cracks a joke that makes you break out in peals of genuine laughter. The chemistry is instantaneous. You exchange numbers, and the first date is the antithesis of every stereotype about going out with a new guy. He’s thoughtful, funny, and most importantly, he still looks good the second time you see him. You breathe a sigh of relief, but suck it right back in when he says he has something he needs to tell you.
He really likes you, but you need to know up front: he’s HIV positive.
Your first reaction is to throw up your hands and holler, “I knew it!” He seemed too good to be true and, as it turns out, he is. Your body is still in your seat but your mind is already hoofing it at mach 10 pace back to your car. You try to think of a polite way to get out from under his gaze without seeming like a completely ridiculous jerk. He senses your apprehension and tells you the story of how he discovered he had the virus.
You’ve got to respect his honesty. You two end up talking the rest of the night into the early morning. Now you’re really at an impasse. Do you see this fabulous fella again, who you know has all of the qualities you want in a man but is restricted by the constraints of his disease, or do you delete his number and strike out in search of another guy who doesn’t make you feel nearly as magical, but has a clean bill of health?
I don’t know anyone who’s ever dated a person with HIV. Wait, let me say this — I don’t know anyone who’s ever knowingly dated a person with HIV. I live in D.C., a city I love with an infection rate that’s terrifying, so chances are that I’ve come across plenty of folks who are carrying the virus and just don’t know it yet. It’s an ongoing epidemic here in the lovely Nation’s Capital.
But I also don’t know if I know anyone with a heart free enough and a mind broad enough to date someone with HIV.
Women tend to be a lot more willing to overlook shortcomings, flaws, and disabilities than a man is. I know a guy who has full-out vitiligo, face and body covered in spotty patches that vary in shade between someone like Angelina Jolie and others that are as dark as maybe an India Arie. The contrast is extreme. But you think that man is ever hurting for a date? Not so much. His dance card is full, but if he were a woman, that would be a whole other story. Men aren’t usually that generous with their oversights.
But HIV isn’t anything close to vitiligo. And it’s mortifying to both genders. This is one example where I can see members of both sexes being scared to carry on any kind of amorous relationship with someone who’s a carrier.
Even as I’m writing this, I’m contemplating the question for myself. I’ve already concluded that I could be with someone who had a physical handicap. When I was younger, I probably wouldn’t have been that free-thinking to even consider a dude in a wheelchair or an amputee or even a blind or deaf guy. It wasn’t that I was superficial. As much baggage and as many flaws as I have myself, I can’t even part my lips to be snarky to somebody else. But like most people (emphasis on most), I’ve matured over time.
With meds and a healthy lifestyle, folks with HIV can lead normal lives. I’m not sure what the sex component is like — and that’s a serious component indeed, let’s not tell lies — but if a couple is committed to each other and committed to making it work, they can find a way to get it in without compromising the uninfected individual’s health, I would think. Could I give up having that blissful, head over heels kind of love because the man giving it had HIV? I don’t think so. I think I could date this hypothetical him.
So, could you date someone with HIV?
Image via mikebaird/Flickr