“After I started to date again, I found it harder, actually, with the younger crowd—around my age. Some guy told me, ‘I can’t kiss you, because then I’m gonna get it.’ ” —Andre Cruz, San Antonio, TX, Diagnosed: 2004
There’s no hurry re-incorporating sex or romance into your newly positive life—if you want it there. Sex, on its own, is a complicated adventure for everyone, especially when it comes with the added burden of a dangerous virus that you are responsible for not transmitting. For another thing, the disclosure jitters may set you back for a while. Many HIV rookies find themselves heading in one of these two unconstructive directions:
Thought bubble #1: “That's it, I can never have sex again.”
Result: Self-imposed celibacy.
Thought bubble #2: “I can still have sex, but not if I tell people my status.”
Result: Unsafe, if conveniently nameless and uncommitted, sex.
If that’s where you’re at, maybe try some self-love instead! As POZ columnist Emily Carter points out, “Masturbating yourself senseless is an excellent relaxation technique.” Or send questions to POZ Sexpert Perry Halikitis at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Then, when you’re ready, develop a plan around when and how to disclose your status. Start here:
1. Set up your safe sex rules (see below), and stick to them. Putting on that condom is more important than what you say to a partner who is negative or of unknown status. Some HIVers choose to have sex only with other HIVers—with or without condoms.
2. Decide who to tell. While some HIVers don’t disclose if they’re hooking up for lower-risk activities, like mutual masturbation or oral sex, if you choose to tell everyone, you’re allowing them to make decisions for themselves.
3. Have faith. We won’t lie to you—some people will freak out. But don’t assume they’ll write you off. Give the person a chance.
“Before, I was foolish. I had sex and it didn’t mean a thing to me. Now I have a greater understanding of what sex is all about, what love is all about. I think I live a better life than I had before.” —G.R., Bronx, NY, Diagnosed: 2004
SAFE SEX TIPS
Safe sex can be hot—and it’s worth it. Even when meds give you an “undetectable” viral load, you can still pass on the virus. You could also get infected with additional, possibly drug-resistant, strains of HIV—or other STDs like herpes, gonorrhea or hepatitis B (and maybe C). Here’s how to stay safe and still have fun:
SLIDE ON A CONDOM
Use latex condoms for vaginal or anal intercourse, and for sex toys like dildos. Check out www.condomania.com for new, improved models, including the first-ever “sized-to-fit” condom.
LUBE IT UP
A few drops of lubricant inside the tip of the condom can increase sensation.
Pick a lube that’s water- or silicone-based, not oil-based. And skip the spermicide nonoxynol-9, which can increase the risk of infection.
LOOK BEFORE YOU LICK
Oral sex is much less risky than anal or vaginal intercourse, but condoms or dental dams make it extra-safe. (Visit condomania.com again, try Saran Wrap or a cut-open condom or latex glove.) Dental dam tips: Rinse off any talc, put a little lube on the lickee’s side (to increase sensation), then hold it over the vulva or anus.
One more thing: Please remember to have fun! You have a right to a fulfilling sex life that is both good and good for you. If the difficulties of protecting your partner or partners get you down—between the disclosure, the rejection and the condoms—definitely don’t forget the pleasure part.
“He’s obvious cautious about certain sexual activities. And I would not want to do anything that puts him in harm’s way. At the same time, we have sexual desires and urges.” —Joshua Sacks, Washington, DC, Diagnosed: 2004