Full Disclosure With Rae Lewis-Thornton: Dating & Sex With HIV

 

Rae Lewis ThorntonDo I still have sex is one of my most often asked questions. From the halls of Stanford University to the schools of inner city Chicago, people are curious about sex and dating for those living with HIV. It’s a fair question given the fact that sex is one way to contract HIV, which also means it is one way to give HIV. Anyhoo, my answer is yes; Yes I still have sex. The follow up question is always, “Do you disclose your HIV status?” The answer is yes I do. Then I get asked with a honest, puzzled face, “And they still want to have sex with you?,” and the answer is still yes. Honestly, I’ve had more invites for causal sex then I have for long-term relationships, but that’s a whole other topic that will leave you speechless.

Let me be clear, underlined in all of these questions is stigma and fear prompted by lack of understanding and honest acceptance of the facts around HIV. I mean come on, how many times have you heard that a condom will prevent a person from contracting HIV? We’ve all heard it and millennials have more information than any of us. But still people ask the question as if sex for those living with HIV is out of the question.

There is no judgement on my behalf; I understand that people are afraid of what they don’t understand. Somehow we have stayed stuck in the earliest information and images of people living with HIV. With stigma hanging over HIV like thick fog, people are afraid to open themselves up to the most relevant of information about HIV.

Who actually sits and reads an article on HIV without the fear of being judged? As if to say, you must have HIV because you’re reading about it. Stigma also creates fear of disclosure for those living with HIV. Stigma on all levels is wrapped tightly around the fear of rejection and judgment. I get it.

When I was first diagnosed I asked…