Courtesy Tom Hayes
L-R: Tom and boyfriend Jimmy
When I was first diagnosed I said I wouldn’t seek out other HIV positive guys to date, in hindsight that was a mistake. Dating is confusing.
This summer I’ll have been living with HIV for six years. Back in August 2011 when I was diagnosed everything was up in the air, but I told myself that nothing should change when it came to sex and relationships.
At the time of my diagnosis I was dating a HIV negative guy who was, initially at least, OK with my status. That was just the boost my confidence needed. Nothing had to change. Then we broke up.
‘Why reduce my chances by self-selecting only positive guys?’
After that relationship I enjoyed being single for a few months, again choosing to not to limit myself to ‘just positive guys’ – there’s a whole world of hot guys out there, why reduce my chances and potential pool of shags by self-selecting only positive guys. I was, and am, after all, undetectable and uninfectious.
A couple of years later I got into a relationship with another guy. Another negative guy. He had no issue with my HIV status, he was clued up and very understanding. Things were good. Then we broke up.
I went back to enjoying myself as a single gay man again. This time things were different however. I was no longer in my 20s, this time I was in my 30s and I’d been here all too many times before.
That summer a guy I’d been chatting to on Twitter, called Jimmy, came up to Birmingham for a visit. He was a fellow HIV activist and wanted to work on some HIV activism projects together. We struck up a friendship.
‘I turned to Jimmy, to say goodbye, and he kissed me’
I next bumped into Jimmy during HIV Testing Week, in the November of 2016. I was attending a showing of the AIDS Quilt at St Paul’s Cathedral and Jimmy was volunteering, through Positively UK, as a guide.
We spent the morning together walking around St Paul’s and catching up. It was like no time had passed at all. After the showing of the quilt we were invited along to a reception with some of HIV’s top brass.
It was an entertaining and thoughtful morning, filled with giggles (when my boss asked who David Furnish was – in front of David Furnish), and heartfelt speeches by some of the people who’d made the quilt patches in memory of their loved ones lost to HIV & AIDS.
As we were finishing up I turned to Jimmy, to say goodbye, and he kissed me. He grabbed me, and kissed me there in St Paul’s Cathedral, right in front of David Furnish. It was electric. I saw the clichéd fireworks.
‘There’s a level of understanding’
It’s no secret that since then we’ve moved pretty quickly as a couple. In the nine months since that kiss we’ve been on holiday together and I’m even in the process of moving in with him – literally as we speak. But never before have things felt this right.
There’s a level of understanding and uncomplication that exists due to us both being HIV positive.
He understands I need to take my pills on time each day, and reminds me to do so, and I do the same in return.
He understands that sometimes my medication will stop me sleeping, or make me queasy – and so do his.
He understands that I hate going to have my bloods taken, because so does he.
He understands and encourages my HIV activism and advocacy work – because he gets it and he does it too.
We’re both also undetectable, and thus unable to pass HIV on. This is science I know and trust in – but the ‘what if’ is always at the back of your mind. It’s drilled into you by the media, by ignorant dicks on Grindr and social media, and sometimes even by medical staff.
That’s not even an issue with Jimmy and me. We’re on the same page.
It’s odd. But by dating someone HIV positive, and thus doubling the amount of HIV related stuff in my life I actually think about my HIV a whole lot less.
Things with Jimmy are going from strength to strength. I’ve never felt more excited, yet at the same time so secure in my entire life. I can’t wait to see where the future takes us.
I’ve come to realize, that by ‘not limiting myself to just positive guys’ I was actually just limiting myself. Full stop. I was actively avoiding what could have been amazing guys just so I wouldn’t be seen to be living, what I felt was, a cliché.
That was a mistake, and I’m ashamed it took me this long to realize it.
This article first appeared on Beyond Positive.
Follow Tom on twitter at @PositiveLad
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