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Question MarkDear Mark

I’m 44-years-old and a newly single guy in the gay community here in Fort Lauderdale. Last year I (finally) got out of a long-term relationship. We were together 17 years and that was seven years too long. He was a great guy, but we had grown apart. It was a mutual decision and we still remain friends as well as own several properties together. Everything is okay with him. My problem is on the dating front. My partner and I had been monogamous for almost the entirety of our relationship and both of us are HIV negative. There had been very little outside sex with other guys and most of it was anonymous. This meant any interaction I had with them was under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” heading. HIV was never discussed and I always had safe sex.

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Dear Mark

I’m 44-years-old and a newly single guy in the gay community here in Fort Lauderdale. Last year I (finally) got out of a long-term relationship. We were together 17 years and that was seven years too long. He was a great guy, but we had grown apart. It was a mutual decision and we still remain friends as well as own several properties together. Everything is okay with him. My problem is on the dating front. My partner and I had been monogamous for almost the entirety of our relationship and both of us are HIV negative. There had been very little outside sex with other guys and most of it was anonymous. This meant any interaction I had with them was under the “don’t ask, don’t tell” heading. HIV was never discussed and I always had safe sex.

Now that I am out there as a single man, I am trying to date again. I have had a number of first dates and invariably the subject of HIV comes up. I don’t know if this is the norm, but every man I have been out on a date with has been HIV positive. I had told myself that I was only going to pursue a relationship with a guy who was negative like me. But I had to begin to question this when all I encountered were (very nice and very date-able) positive guys. So I began to follow up with a guy or two and got an even bigger surprise. I found out that they were hesitant to date me because I was HIV negative. They told me they worried if I would be able to understand their life circumstances and feared we would be incompatible. This completely shocked me. I put my own fears aside to date them and they end up rejecting me. Help me understand this.

Signed, Pete

Victoria Park

Dear Pete,

I have heard this complaint before. There has been so much energy put into the concept of a sero-discordant relationship around negative guys that we, sometimes, overlook the experience of the positive guys. When you think about it, this is half of the equation and deserves equal attention. It makes sense to me that you would have some concerns about this. As an HIV negative man on the dating scene, it presents a bit of a dilemma. In South Florida, especially Fort Lauderdale, there is a large population of gay men who are HIV positive. Some statistics have the number as high as 62% in the greater Fort Lauderdale area. Your focus has been on “how do I take a risk and date them?” and they’re concern is “how do I take a risk and date him?” Both sides have valid concerns.

The issue of sero-discordancy (the dynamic when one person in a relationship is HIV+ and the other is HIV-) has changed over the years. In the early days it was a big issue. There were entire support groups around this subject. As HIV has changed over the years, so has this issue. Even though it has become less scary for many men, the question that keeps popping up is “will this person with a different experience be able to relate to me?”

I think this is where you can start. Take HIV off the table for a moment. Do you like a particular guy for who they are? If so, can you begin a dialogue that lets you both talk about your fears? There is no right answer here. For every example there is a different decision on what is “right” for each specific couple. You may find that HIV begins to pale in comparison to their other traits. You may find it is too big of a hurdle to overcome. You may still have some fear about the issue and still willing to take a chance. The only way you will know is to discuss it with your potential partner. Dialogue between you is the key. Best of luck.

Sincerely,

Mark Rutherford LCSW

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