Posts Tagged ‘Dating’

12/07/2014

By Benjamin Di’Costa

IMG_0297It’s World AIDS Day, and researchers, advocates and patients are taking measure of efforts to combat the spread of HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that of the estimated 1.2 million Americans who have HIV, 86 percent are aware of their status. However, just 40 percent are receiving medical care for the virus. One barrier to treatment could be the persistent stigma that many HIV-positive young people face. Here’s a relevant scene (and one that’s not uncommon in this, the Year of the Young Advocate):

World AIDS Day 2014… And here I am a  young gay male—urban, professional, culturally and politically savvy—walking down the street in the “Gayborhood” called Wilton Manors here in Fort Lauderdale. It was a beautiful day and not a cloud in sight.  in which it’s common to see men walking hand in hand to the local Starbucks, or making their way to their morning workouts when out of nowhere I hear from across the street shout, ” You are not worth life and you should die!” says the middle aged gay male.

Being a person who faced discrimination for being gay I just blew it off and kept walking down the street when another younger gay male mumbles under his breath “Dirty Faggot”. Now at this point I was taken back by this statement being that I was in a LGBT neighborhood where pretty much every lifestyle was accepted. What was it about me just walking down the street that caused such negative reactions from the community?

I look down and realize that I was wearing my No Shame in Being HIV+ Shirt from RiseUptoHIV and then it all hit me at once that this in fact had nothing to do with my sexual orientation but was solely about me wearing a shirt with HIV+ written on it? As I continue into a local Starbucks that morning and then notice the countless stares and whispers that were coming from patrons enjoying their morning cup of coffee.

Here I am a young 24 year old gay male who actually doesn’t live with HIV but I am in encountering countless acts of HIV stigma within my own community. Up until this point I had never understood what it felt like to be stigmatized and when I sat down and really reflected on what just happened a wave of emotion just hit me, I realized that at the end of the day I can take off this shirt and the stigma ends but what about those who are living with HIV? Those living with HIV don’t get to choose when the stigma comes and when it goes it is something that is commonly faced within the Gay and Bisexual community particularly minority communities.

So you may be asking, What now? Where do we go from here? 

There are many ways we can all fight HIV stigma in our lives and in our community, whether you are HIV-positive or HIV-negative:

  • Break the silence surrounding HIV stigma in our community. Talk about your experiences, fears and concerns about getting HIV or transmitting HIV with friends, a counselor, or a fuck buddy.
  • Learn how to better deal with and react when a guy tells you he has HIV.
  • Take responsibility for the prevention of HIV. The prevention of HIV is a responsibility that all gay men share – HIV-positive, HIV-negative and HIV status unknown.
  • Challenge attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that contribute to HIV stigma. Don’t be a silent witness to it when it happens around you.
  • Avoid using language that overtly stigmatizes others.
  • Treat guys with HIV as you would treat anyone else: with respect, empathy, and compassion.
  • Get informed about how to protect yourself from HIV and be confident in that knowledge. We know how to prevent HIV.
  • If you have difficulty playing safe, take charge of your sexual health and get the help you need to ensure you do not get infected with or transmit HIV.

Are there other things you can think of to fight HIV stigma?

Email Info@ThePozLife.Com or Tweet Us @ThePozLife!

And remember Positivity Is Everything! 

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KenLikeBarbie and Patrick Ingram behind the scenes photo shoot for AIDS.gov (and no folks this was just for play-both are not together).

[This was brought to you by one of our guest contributors who wanted to share their story.  Want to share your story then click here!]

    If one were to ask me six months ago my thoughts on being in a relationship with someone who was HIV positive, I would have responded that it wasn’t an option. From a young age, I always imagined myself having the ‘fairytale’ ending. Well, the fairytale that always seems to be portrayed in media, at least. The handsome, well-groomed, great mannered gentlemen; three kids, two dogs, luxury cars, a four-story house with a green carpet of grass…all concealed by the security of our bordering white picket fence. For years, I’ve been daydreaming of the fantasy. Being a gay black male, however, my parents found it necessary to remind me that life was going to be hard enough considering I would already have those ‘three strikes’ against me. With the silent whisper in my mind, I made it a point to never involve myself, or get caught up with something that could potentially put my fantasy lifestyle in farther reach. As simple minded as it may seem, I always assumed that contracting HIV would be equivalent to putting a loaded gun to my head and pulling the trigger. Death to the luxurious lifestyle; a suicide to ravish reality. An HIV negative and HIV positive persons could never coincide together, I would tell myself. Looking back, I realize that it was a mere lack of education and knowledge that brought me to this elementary conclusion.

            It wasn’t until three months ago that my ideologies began to quickly change. I met this amazing guy who seemed to have all of the qualities that I was searching for, and countless more. He made it a point to be very open and honest about his lifestyle, and quickly shared his status of being HIV positive. It may seem odd, but the mere fact that he was willing to be so open and honest shortly after our introduction was very reassuring to me. Just in that one statement, he showed more self-confidence than I could ever hope to have. It was in that instance that I knew it was time to be more open minded, trustworthy, and take a chance on love…a chance on true happiness. A few weeks later, it was apparent that he was becoming a much-needed positive – no pun intended – influence in my life. He was patient with me, showing great interest and care in my well-being, as well as his own. This allowed me the time to take into consideration all that would entail in being involved in a sero-discordant relationship. Engaging in conversation and activity with someone who was HIV positive, which once seemed like a detrimental mask, was only a small blemish – per se – in realizing that my real life fairytale was coming true.

With a quick press of the fast forward button, I am grateful to say that he is still in my life; with hopes that he will remain forever. Being an advocate for HIV awareness, he has educated me tremendously on the pressures of living with HIV. While we have not yet had any backlash of negative stigma surrounding our relationship, I feel the time may be approaching for me to be open with my close friends and family about our sero-discordant relationship. A part of me still feels a sense of anxiety, wondering how others will view us, or quickly pass judgment. I contemplate on a daily basis over when is the ‘right’ time to share the news. But knowing that I have him in my corner to help weed out the negative opinions of others is making this internal battle all the more easier. When I look at him, I don’t see or think about HIV; I’m simply reminded of all the characteristics that make him a wonderful individual. I know this is only the beginning of the journey, but I couldn’t think of anyone else I would rather take this adventure with.

Moving forward, we have made it a point to maintain open communication in all aspects of our relationship. Staying on top of one another about getting tested regularly, maintaining healthy eating habits, and staying active are towards the top of the list. We have also been discussing methods of practicing safer sex. Aside from the frontrunner of condom use, PrEP has been a big part of the discussion. If used correctly, PrEP can greatly reduce the risk of contracting HIV. After recent discussion with my doctor, as well as, educating myself on the costs and benefits of using PrEP, I think this will be a major benefit for our relationship. My only advice for those who find themselves in a similar circumstance is to keep an open mind, but be honest with yourself about the struggles of the future. Educate yourself, as well as others, because with knowledge, each day is another step forward in winning the battle of the HIV epidemic. Be kind to others, as you never know another individuals feats and triumphs. And finally, stay humble and be fortunate for all that you have been blessed with.IMG_0225

 

New Year New Us!

So bringing in 2014 there will be many of our loved ones, friends, family, colleagues, and strangers who will be ready to begin their New Year Resolutions in hopes of completing them all by the end of the year.  Let’s be honest though, who ever completes every single New Years’ Resolutions?  This year I plan to do something different that I think will be successful and I invite you all to do the same.

I often tell people that my HIV diagnosis two years ago involved me going through a sort of metamorphosis.  During this process I evolved as a person, on very physical, emotional, and spiritual levels that were all for good.  I saw things more clearly and made a point to go forward with any dreams I had.  Can anyone relate?  As an 18 year old in high school I wanted to do it all.  From an officer in the United States Coast Guard, a professional tennis player, entertainer, author, a business owner, and married to the most perfect partner with the most phenomenal family.   I honestly wanted to have it all.  As time went on and my dream of not making it in the military and my tennis lacking success, I began not to day dream as much about those potentials.  Days that were once spent always day dreaming about my potential future became replaced with more “realistic ideas,” that were more fitting of survival in this world.  When I was diagnosed with HIV my eyes flashed before my eyes.  Like I talk about in one of my first videos I could have easily not have opted to test for HIV.  By not testing my plan was to remain in denial for the rest of my life.  Due to this life-changing event I made a choice to look at all of my dreams again and find ways to make them happen.

How is this relevant many of you may ask?  Well it is simple.  As Brian Litrell says, “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.”  I looked at ways I can give back to my community (advocating and speaking out about different things that negatively affect it).  Although there are policies that prevent me from serving in the military there is hope, and we should definitely continue to pressure Congress and the Department of Defense in allowing individuals living with HIV to serve their country.  I also started playing a tennis league and also starting to look for opportunities like using YouTube for my video blogging, singing, and other projects like the MTV documentary to entertain individuals from around the world.  In 2014 I will also be focusing time on my book and creating a line of products I hope you all will enjoy.

I think it is important that we all reach out for our dreams and wants, no matter what they are.  Illnesses or even failure should not keep us from fighting what we want.  If we pray on our dreams, continue to work on them, and have affirmations then they will happen.  Affirmations are very important and Dr. Harra explains this very well in her Huffington Post Article.    Even if you are completing them at 50% that is better than never thinking you can.

  My three challenges for you all this year is very simple:

  1. 1.    Be there for others because there is always room to do more in this department.  Even by giving a friend a hug, a text during the day saying you are thinking of them, a nice thank you message to your boss (even if they are incompetent), and even saying congratulations or liking a comment of a rival are ways you can be there for others.  Volunteering your time or even donating to an AIDS Service Organization (ASO) or Community Based Organization (CBO) can be a way to give back.  A database of such organizations can be found here.
  2. 2.    Patching up issues with adversaries.  This is something that is very hard for me.  This will be tough for me because I may forget about the past but never forget, which can affect my actions.  We should learn how to forgive people for what they do and say.  No one is perfect so apologies are definitely fitting.  Our egos can be huge barriers at times where reconciliation can take place.
  3. 3.    Personal Growth can take place is so many different forms.  This can be traveling more, taking more vacations, learning a new skill, making new friends, soul searching, and even getting to a place where you can be more open about your HIV status. Personal growth can also include things professionally.  There is always room for self-improvement and we should always look at ways to better ourselves.

These three simple things can reach literally every goal people make each year.  I also think that to be able to accomplish these goals we have to have more realistic expectations.  A perfect example is how in the first of the year gyms see an increase of activity that soon tapers off by February/March.  By easing into to being physically active and going to the gym on a more consistent basis you start of small with goals like going at least 3 times a week for an hour or so, and then increasing it weekly with an additional day until you are going at a frequency that balances out in your everyday life.  Writing my book has seriously resulted in nothing ever happening past a few sentences a quarter; however, now I will dedicate a few minutes out of the day to brainstorm and write a few things.  The following month I will increase my writing to something more consistent and realistic to completing by the end of the year.  Fixing interpersonal issues can take place with exes, ex-friends, lack of a father-son relationship, etc.  They may not be enemies but I think that working on improving communication and ending conflicts helps to relieve stress and drama in one’s life.

In 2014 will you work on reaching the moon by having reasonable expectations and progress that will take place over time? Or will you rush into something head on, burn out, and give up halfway through?  Again HIV does not mean we cannot accomplish our dreams, so we must make sure that we don’t give up if we hit a brick wall.  Breaking through that wall and overcoming our fears and anxieties about such possibilities will result in us having success on some level.


IMG_0766  In this New Year and beyond it is important to simply do what is best for you.  Also, keeping in mind that this also includes doing what is needed to manage your HIV and all other outside sources that may influence it.  If anyone has issues with you or the healthier choices you are making to better yourself, then be the fabulous person you are and keep on strutting into the future!

  Check me out being featured on Edugaytion’s live stream.  This can also be downloaded via the iTunes store under podcasts!  Don’t  forget to check out Edugaytion!

Patrick will be sitting down and talking with Jahlove who is a youth and HIV advocate, Drag Queen, and Dancer. Tune in while we discuss his work in the field of HIV and discuss disclosure and dating. We will be answering questions so tune into youtube.com/pozlifeofpatrick or Facebook.com/pozlifeofpatrick to ask your questions

Video on Dating advice and guide (including tips) on how to navigate muddy waters for people living with HIV.

So are you finally ready to dust off the cobwebs, get that old sexy outfit on, and get back out into the dating scene after dealing with the reality of living with HIV?  Well I am here to offer some suggestions and advice based off my own experiences.

When I met with my therapist and was discussing my fear of getting back into dating she pushed me to step outside of my comfort zone and to be vulnerable.  She recommended that I watch this TEd.com video about Vulnerability.  After watching this interesting video I understood that I needed to know that I was worthy of being loved by others, which can be very hard because I felt at that point that I was not.  I had to be brave enough to put myself up there and be prepared for rejection or for things not working out because of my HIV status.

So, where do you the reader come into play and what can you expect?

1.  Rejection is something that hurts and is painful but expect it to happen. I am not saying to walk around paranoid, but always be prepared and/or ready for it to happen.  It may be the perfect guy or gal but once they hear those there letters (HIV) they immediately run for the hills.

2.  Understanding and having Forgiveness that someone can possibly be unknowledgeable about HIV and its stigma and rather not even attempt to learn about it.  Lack of education on HIV and how it is transmitted is a reality.  The location I am now doing HIV testing is packed full of people who cannot even tell me what H.I.V stands for little alone tell me what the four major fluids that transmit HIV are.  People who run and fear HIV are afraid of what they do not understand and we must recognize that.  In my experience after having some conversation about what transmits HIV, what being on treatment looks likes and/or means, and how often I see the doctor actually reassures the person that I am taking the steps to take care of my potential partner.

3. Broaden your horizons and stop being so picky!  Give people who you may have never gone for the opportunity.  Going on a date is just an event of going out with someone to get to know them better, and not opening your door and allowing them to move in.  Remember, when you constantly type cast you tend to run into the same habitual issues or face your well running dry.  Be advised that there is no endless supply of gay, tall, dark-skinned, total-top, smooth, popular/well-known, ripped six-pack men out there that happen to know how to do the wobble.

4. Be prepared to answer many questions. This is not necessarily a bad thing but ensure that you are up to date on your HIV 101.  Don’t be in a situation where you can’t answer questions about something you are living with.  It could definitely scare a potential suitor away.

6. Have the confidence within and know that you do not have to just settle for less.  Just because you are living with HIV does not mean under any circumstances that you should lower your expectations.  I say shoot for the stars and if you fall you still hit the moon.

7. Being open to dating someone who is also living with HIV.  This should be a gimmie but if not greatly consider.  I was not totally on board with that in the beginning; however, through my experiences it is refreshing to date someone who understands the ups and downs that come with living some the virus.  Also they are for the most part educated and also in care, which is always a plus.

8. If someone has a problem with your status let him or her go! Don’t cry over spilt hopes and dreams.  If someone is not willing to look beyond HIV (something you are taking the necessary steps to care for) then don’t attempt to look beyond his or her foolish behavior.  Remember, like I say in many of my other blog posts, surround yourself with people who will love and adore you for the individual that you are and not the virus that so rudely accommodates your body.

9. Work on you!  I can honestly say that I can tend obsessed with finding love, dating, and wanting to never be alone.  I have seriously spent countless hours working on me.  The construction on me has been physical, mental, spiritual, and emotional.  So, take some time to really work on discovering who you are, where you see yourself, and whom that potential person in your life might look like.  Just know that the sky is the limit!

10.Affirmations Affirmations Affirmations!  Remember to keep your spirits high and when you feel like things are going down then do whatever it takes to turn it around.  Say things like “I look amazing!” or “I am going to really impress on this date.”  Confidence is everything!!

I am also open to your ideas, thoughts, and own experiences when it comes to being HIV positive and dating.  Shoot me an email or leave a comment below so I can be sure to include it in my YouTube Video.

Until then,

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Check me out back with the crew of Bottom Line as we discuss the recent Catfish episode and as I also share my experiences catfishing and being catfished. Very interestng