Posts Tagged ‘relationships with HIV’


Ken Williams

There are a few things I want you to know about my positive experience. Whether you’ve worked in HIV for decades or are new to the epidemic, we all start somewhere. I’m a filmmaker and, ironically, my first introduction to the epidemic was through film. It was film where I started and film where I continue to this day.

Well before I became positive, my first in-depth look into the HIV epidemic was through the lens of a film called Philadelphia. For two hours I watched Tom Hanks’ character die on screen. What I took away from watching Philadelphia was that the typical HIV positive experience can be one of rejection and discrimination. It can be a stigmatized and demoralizing experience. Some people may think that your fate is considered your fault. As a person who has been living with HIV for four years, I now know this is not true.

The truth about my positive experience is that my life can often be seriously impacted by the social and physical implications of living with HIV. Almost every day, living with HIV means something different to me. Some days I feel hopeful because I take my medications and stay in care, while on other days, I feel shame because I am confronted head on by the stigma that is associated with living with HIV, leaving me feeling that I need to remain silent about my disease for fear of ridicule; the expectation that I must be dangerous because I am living with HIV. Having tested HIV positive just 4 years ago, I am still adjusting. Adjusting to how best to deal with stigma; how best to understand and manage what is happening in my body; how best to keep moving forward.

Much of this adjustment, for me, at least, is best handled by practicing optimism instead of fear. Optimism brought on by scientific advances; optimism brought on by my own personal growth and understanding of how to live a healthy life with HIV; and optimism that we are now talking about the real possibility of a generation free of HIV/AIDS. I learn daily and I listen to the outpouring of similar stories in my community and I take my meds and I live! I live despite the stigma. I live despite the fear. I share my story behind and in front of the camera and through these stories and connections I stay hopeful. I hope for an AIDS-free generation and a generation free of the stigma and fear and blame. I hope for a generation where I can continue to share my truths. My optimism drives me to want to see that generation.

What are you doing each day to bring us all to an AIDS-free generation?

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“An agreement or a settlement of a dispute that is reached by each side making concessions” is the definition of compromise. Lately this is something that I have been struggling with, as it relates to my career and my personal life. I rarely share details about my personal life but at times I feel it is necessary; this is one of those times. My husband and I have had numerous conversations, sometimes arguments, about the balance of time for my career and our relationship.

For those who know me, know that I give a 110 percent to whatever I do. I like to world hard and unless I am constantly moving and contributing in some way shape or form, I am do not feel fulfilled. Some may call that being a workaholic but I think its being passion. When did working hard to be successful become negative?

At one point my husband felt that I work so much that I was not fully invested in our relationship. He also expressed concern that since I am HIV+, I should allow myself to rest more. Well the challenge was, how was I supposed to achieve my career and personal goals and still be invested in my relationship without feeling as though I was settling? I have always been very ambitious and driven. I know what I want to accomplish and in what time frame I want it accomplished. I didn’t want my career to suffer or my relationship but the truth was that I did not know how to balance. Yes I have been in relationships before but they were with men who were even more driven than me so to be with someone who not only wanted to invest in our relationship but wanted me to as well as an equal was foreign to me.

I had to understand where my husband was coming from. Yes my career was very important to me but I had to realize that my husband is my family now and that he should be a priority. If I expect him to cater to my needs and be supportive of me, I have to do the same for him. Sometimes this means not responding to an email once I am home, not taking a call or simply catering to his needs and wants and making him feel like he is my husband.

But also my husband had to be honest with himself and acknowledge that fact that he wanted someone who was not as career driven as I am. He wanted a husband who would take on the traditional roles of a “woman”. He wanted to be the provider. Hearing this from him made me realize how many times we as gay men still try impose hetero-normative roles in our relationships and forget that we are both two men who have very similar desires.

My husband and I had to learn three very key components for any relationship; respect, communication and compromise. In my opinion the hardest of the three is compromise and there is a huge different between compromising and settling. It’s difficult to find compromise as a couple but at some point the two individuals have to reach a point of balance within the relationship. And they have to learn to do so without resenting the other person. We can’t be naive to the fact that these concessions will be difficult and that someone may even feel as though they are settling but once they learn to get past emotions the couple is open to a whole new level of love and respect.

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 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,