I should start charging for my services. Nah, it’s not what you’re thinking. I need to start raking in the bucks for my trademark HIV 101 consultation and therapy sessions. People do get paid for that, right? I may not have a master’s degree in psychology or social work, but I do have a doctorate in surviving AIDS and giving great advice on the subject. And that’s exactly what my most recent online suitor, whom I’ll call Carl, wanted. Recently diagnosed, he might have thought that he wanted to date me. But after several phone conversations, I realized that what hottie Carl needed was a social worker, not a girlfriend. So I sent him to one. And I didn’t even charge a referral fee.
As I struggle to survive the online HIV dating wars, I’ve found that many positive people use dating sites not for dating but for searching for that perfect treatment option. And that’s great. I mean, I think back to when I was diagnosed, in 1986. There was no Internet then, and it was much harder to meet and talk with other positive people, to share our stories and grow. But now that the Internet offers so many HIV resources, I sometimes wonder why dating-site guys don’t look for a sweet little A-S-O instead of some sweet little A-S-S.
Only a selfish jerk would knock newly positive people for feeling lonely and confused and not knowing whether they want a lover, a friend or a caseworker—or maybe all three in one hot package. But after years of being terrified of my HIV status, fearing that no one would want me, I am finally ready to date, and I want someone else who truly is too. And maybe I’m looking to get some tender loving care, instead of giving it all the time.
Back to Carl. At first, he wouldn’t send me his picture. But after I swore I wouldn’t file a press release and publish it in the media, he finally agreed. I was pleasantly surprised when I got it and thought that I was going in the right direction. But then the frantic late-night phone calls started coming. And believe me, the heavy breathing wasn’t the brand I preferred. He hit me up for as much data and info as I could put out: “What is a T cell? What’s the difference between phenotype and genotype testing? Am I going to die? Help me, help me, HELP ME!”
I sent him to POZ.com, which would better explain the complicated treatment choices. But before hanging up, I patiently explained the basics: the pathogenesis of HIV, blood ratio levels, viral loads, peptides and enzymes—you know, all of the most romantic viral stuff. I assured him that from what I could tell of his situation, he was not going to die soon, as long as he got care. I had to get him into some kind of support group and let an outreach worker become his new girlfriend. I decided that this girl wasn’t going down that road again. I say “again,” because I’ve come to realize that I have a tendency to attract lost souls. I saw a psychologist myself a while ago, and the only thing he said that made sense (before falling asleep during a session and still charging me a fortune) was this: “Your impulse to self-sacrifice is self-destructive.” Of course, that’s my pathology, not Carl’s—but I’m starting to realize that maybe I’m avoiding my own issues with HIV by focusing on someone else’s issues with HIV.
Every part of me wanted to help Carl. I still feel guilty that I didn’t want to go out with him. I can understand his anguish. I want to go with him to his doctor’s appointments so he knows what questions to ask, strategize with him about the medication he takes and make sure his doctors don’t intimidate him. I want to make him laugh and alleviate some of his fears. But is it wrong to finally want to take care of Angelica first? Am I being selfish? I need to discuss this with my therapist. And I will—next time I see him. I hope he stays awake.