Serosorting and Relationships

Discussion in 'Relationships, Discrimination, and Jealousy' started by simcha, Aug 4, 2007.

  1. simcha

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    I have read on LPSG and on different sites about serosorting. It all makes logical sense to me. And I have some concerns.

    First off, I'm HIV negative. I've been out and sexually active with men since I was 24, I'm 37 now. I grew up and came of age when we didn't know what AIDS was and why gay men were dying. I grew up afraid of being sexually attracted to men because I thought I might catch "it" and die, since when I was in my teens we didn't know what was causing this "Gay Cancer." I have practiced safer sex, using condoms for anal sex for 13 years now. I don't use condoms for oral sex, even when I've known that the guy has been HIV positive, because it's a low risk behavior and I've been willing to accept this much risk in my life. I have had oral sex with condoms and have always felt like it tasted like I was sucking on a ballon, no matter what I did to make the condom taste better. But I digress...

    I don't want to minimize the experience and feelings of those who are HIV positive. I'll tread carefully and yet, I want to be able to share my feelings. There are some truly lovely people here in this forum and I've seen people share some really valuable insights and feelings with one another. So, in that spirit...

    I feel like I've been an HIV and AIDS survivor. Please allow me to explain. No, I don't live with the virus physically in my body, replicating inside my cells. I live with the societal, emotional, spiritual, intellectual, and sexual effects of AIDS and HIV. I've seen many friends die, some of them were very close friends. There have been times where I've been so afraid that I've caught "it" that I have made myself actually physically sick, only to test negative (and for the negative results I'm grateful, don't misunderstand). I have been afraid of being sexual with men who were into me because they are HIV positive. I have had periods where I've decided not to reject guys due to their HIV positive status too, and have been at peace with it.

    At this point in my life, I really would like to have a husband/partner. I have had some longer term relationships. No one has ever felt like a husband to me.

    Dating seems to be so difficult today, whether one is gay, straight, or bisexual. There is such a fear of intimacy that we all share, it seems. I know I've felt it myself. Also, it seems to be difficult to find a guy who shares the same values, is spiritual, loving, kind, responsible, honest, and can commit.

    It's hard enough out there to find love, it seems...

    Now I've met a guy who I've been seeing for a little over a month. He seems to have many of the qualities I would like to have in a partner. He's spiritual, kind, funny, intelligent, and responsible. He's raised two of his nephews on his own. One of them is 17 and still lives with him. He's a Latino Jew. (Jewish/Mexican/Columbian/Panamanian/French) I'm a real mix too and I'm an Eastern European Jew, my Jewish ancestors having come from Byelorussia via London... We share so much in common. He's delightful to be around... I really like him.

    He's HIV positive. I'm HIV negative.

    He's very concerned that he might give me HIV no matter how careful we are. He is healthy, has a high T-cell count, and has an undetectable viral load. He's been HIV positive for almost ten years. He's never been sick because of the HIV. He takes his medication and he takes good care of himself.

    I'm also reasonably concerned about catching HIV from him. Yes, I've had sex with plenty of HIV positive men and I know how to protect myself. Even with other HIV negative men, I have always used condoms for anal sex and have been careful with oral hygeine, etc. And I'm still HIV negative after all of these years.

    When we kiss, woah, I've never felt the shaking in my gut like that before. There is a connection. When I'm around him, I feel like there are definite possibilities here for a long term relationship because it's so easy to be around each other. We share the same sense of humor, we have fun just hanging out, etc. I really like his nephew too. He's a sweetheart and a good kid.

    Now, I'm concerned that this guy might reject me because he is afraid that he might give me HIV. We have talked about the pressure that we both experience in the Bay Area to serosort: the practice of dating and having sex with guys who share the same serostatus only. He's more afraid than I am. He's been rejected many times by guys who are HIV negative. He's terrified that I'll leave him someday because he's HIV negative. He also says that he couldn't live with himself if he were to pass the virus on to someone else.

    These are very valid concerns and feelings. On my part I am less afraid of dating someone who is HIV positive as an HIV negative guy. I've never been rejected only on the basis of my serostatus. Now, there is a chance that I might be rejected by him because I'm HIV negative, he is terrified of getting close to me because he's afraid of passing the virus to me, and he's concerned that he would hold back in bed and that sex might become unenjoyable because of his fear of passing the virus to me.

    We've talked about how we both share the strong conviction that anal sex should be done with condoms regardless of the serostatus of either party. We've discussed how even if he were to serosort, dating only HIV positive men, he'd still have to be careful of catching something other than HIV or giving something other than HIV to the other guy. And, HIV is a big deal and his concern that he might give me HIV even if we are very careful is a valid concern.

    I'm a psychotherapist intern. I work with HIV positive homeless gay men. I've worked with other populations of HIV postive men for a couple of years now. I've worked with couples who have been together for over a decade where there is one partner who is HIV positive and one who is HIV negative, and they've maintained their serodiscordance for the entire relationship. And I've known couples where one has spread the virus to the other.

    Early on in the epidemic, once we knew what was happening and knew the facts about how HIV is spread, I was taught not to discriminate against HIV positive guys because safer sex works. These days, people are increasingly opting for serosorting. I see that HIV positive guys have started this partially to own the responsibility for not spreading the virus to HIV negative guys. And this is very positive, indeed.

    As an HIV negative guy there are strong arguments for serosorting, dating only those guys who I know have tested HIV negative. And yet I hesitate... I was brought up not to discriminate. This is a strong value for me. Also, I've educated myself about HIV having participated in more support groups for HIV negative men, workshops, classes, etc. than I can count. I've been working with HIV positive men in the Bay Area as a mental health professional for a few years. I have love and compassion for those who live with the virus inside of their bodies. I also believe that I'm not ignorant of my own risks in dating and having a sexual relationship with a guy who is HIV positive. And, I believe I can accept this calculated risk because I know I always practice safer sex. And yes, condoms do break...

    I'm sad and frustrated that HIV may prevent me from dating the sweetest guy I've met yet and a guy with whom, for the first time, I feel that there are true possibilities for something truly special. Yes, I've only known him for a little over a month. Yes, I'm going slow and I'm being careful to get to know him. No, I'm not willing to commit right away or profess my undying love and affection to him. I can say that I REALLY like him and I want to get to know him better because I feel it in my "balls to bones" that there are possibilities for us.

    And, he might not be able to open up to the possibilities that we could become close because he has a very real fear of passing the virus to me.

    I've never faced the possibility of being rejected because I'm HIV negative before. It sucks. I understand it, and still, it sucks.

    Any support, comments, etc. would be appreciated. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. Mem

    Mem
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    I guess you've been lucky. You say you've knowingly had oral sex with HIV positive guys. I think receiving head is not as dangerous , but giving head is.

    You have to decide for yourself. Once you become positive you can't go back. Finacially it can be devistating with the cost of medication to treat HIV. You've probably fooled around alot with guys that have told you they are negative anyway.

    Is love worth it?, or would you be better off finding a guy who is negative and hope that neither of you EVER fool around on each other.

    Aids is no longer a Death sentence, but it is a life sentence. The only good thing about getting HIV is that you don't have to worry about getting it.

    If you do get it and you meet the love of your life who is negative and he rejects you, how will that make you feel.

    Either way I wish you luck.
     
  3. Industrialsize

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    I know PLENTY of mixed negative and positive couples........doesn't seem to be a problem for them, and NONE of the negative partners have sero-converted
     
  4. Bbucko

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    This is completely true, and there have been large studies of serodiscordant couples who used condoms for anal (but not oral) tracked over more than a decade. None of the negs seroconverted. Oral, especially with suppressed VLs is essentially risk-free, barring issues like advanced gum disease or recent oral surgery (in which case a blow job seems pretty unlikely). A mouth filled with saliva is not a hospitible place for a fragile virus like HIV.

    As a counsellor, your are undoubtedly aware that many men lie about all kinds of things, major or trivial. Unfortunately, HIV status is a subject most guys would prefer to not discuss. And perhaps as much as 1/3 of all poz guys are unaware of their status because they don't test frequently enough, which makes honesty irrelevant to this discussion.

    I am highly dubious about negs serosorting in casual encounters. The only way to assure a negative status is to have tested neg 13 weeks after the last encounter and to have been celibate during that time window. In a casual encounter there is no way of verifying that your sexual partner has done that. And, as I said above, man lie, are in denial, or simply don't really know.

    I have read your post carefully and know that you're a bright and caring man who has navigated the hazards of safer sex all of your adult life. All that stress has been rewarded by keeping your serostatus negative. I applaud you for this. You know the difference between managing risk and enjoying sex in a healthy and positive manner and are a success.

    The great unspoken here is that serosorting generally equals barebacking. It's one thing for couples engaged in a long-term relationship based on trust to forego condoms, quite another in a hook-up. I am writing this for others who might be reading this thread, because I believe that you understand the importance of being 100% compliant with safer sex practices. As you said, it works.

    I believe that I was infected sometime between 1978-83, based on my behavior. I was a long term non-progressor until the late 90s, when I fell sick and tested poz. I well remember that slight grip of terror having sex with guys whom I knew to be poz before I was diagnosed. When I first started dating again after a nine-year relationship collapsed in 2004 I saw that same look in the eyes of others, which eventually led me to become a strict serosorter myself.

    I have to give you (and the beau) credit for even considering a mixed-status relationship. I wouldn't do it. After two and a half years of exclusively serosorting I find the concept of hooking up with a neg totally unerotic, no matter how attractive he might be (physically or emotionally).
     
  5. novice_btm

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    This is an excellent and informative thread. Thanks so much for pouring out your stories, and bringing up this subject.
     
  6. simcha

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    First of all, thanks so much for all of you who have replied...

    Amen, and amen to this... I don't think I could have said it any better.

    Thanks, some of this is up to luck too. All sex carries some risk.

    Yes, and I've read that serosorting amongst HIV positive men is meant to allow for barebacking. And, while I understand it, I also know that there is so much more besides HIV that could be passed between partners regardless of serostatus. I would think that HIV positive men would want to be extra cautious so as not to allow themselves to catch anything else because of the risks of having a compromised immune system.

    My guy would bareback another HIV positive guy. He wouldn't ejaculate inside of him. And, of course, he wouldn't bareback a guy whose serostatus was negative or unknown. Even without ejaculation, there is still risk in pre-ejaculate for other infections being passed to one another. For example, the longest relationship I ever had was with a guy who had genital herpes. We never barebacked, of course. And we refrained from contact when he had sores, because herpes is highly contagious. Even with condoms, there is a moderate risk of passing this virus. While HIV positive men are already infected with HIV there is so much more that you can acquire through sexual contact. It's a personal choice, I completely understand. I know for me, I wouldn't want to take the chance...

    I'm so sorry that this happened to you. Trauma is intense. The trauma of living with this virus regardless of serostatus has had a major impact on all of us. We all need to make choices to protect ourselves emotionally and physically as best we can. And, it's important that we work to heal from the trauma of living with this virus.

    Thanks for the credit... It's not even easy to talk about, as I'm sure you know. I honor your choices, please understand this. And, I think it's sad that anyone of us feels like they might have to exclude someone else because of viral status. Like I said in my op, dating and finding someone with whom one is compatible is hard enough without having to exclude people who have a different serostatus. The trauma of living with this virus has affected every level of our community. That is a sad fact.
     
  7. simcha

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    Actually, it's not as dangerous as you might think...

    Health & HIV

    Yes, and this is why it is important to be up on all the research and data. Also, it's why I've always used safer sex measures. And yes, guys lie all the time. Each person has to do whatever makes he/she feel comfortable because each person must live with the consequences of his/her actions.

    Ah, that question. It's only four words and none of them larger than 5 letters, and yet it's so complicated. "Is love worth it?" Well, I can tell you from a professional perspective (psychology) that love is essential for the human psyche. Without having love for others and without receiving love we develop many psychological disorders.

    As a human being who is going to be 40 in under 2.5 years, that love is absolutely worth bothering with. I'm not saying I'm old. I am saying that I have enough life experience for myself at this moment to make this determination for me. If I were to let go of my commitment to safer sex, I wouldn't be able to be with anyone, because I know all to well that most men make mistakes, even when our intentions are pure. Safer sex allows me the freedom to be sexually intimate with a partner, increasing the overall intimacy in a romantic relationship. Emotionally, I need this when I'm involved with someone.

    Can I forsake having a "significant other" forever? Sure... There is love in friendships and family that is equally as satisfying. It's just a very different kind of love... I guess I'm more of an optimist in this regard. I kind of have to be, in my professional life and to be who I am... I have to allow for the possibility that I could have a husband. Not even allowing for the possibility is just too depressing for me.

    Agreed.

    As terrible as the guy who I'm getting to know has felt, I'd imagine.

    Thanks. You too...
     
  8. Falcon9

    Falcon9 New Member

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    Here is the dynamic in your postings that I think affects all that you are weighing right now. I agree with the second statement, but do not agree with the first. But the first statement is from your own perspective on dating and what is possible and I can only respect your view of this but for myself, I have learned to shed that type of limited thinking with some very good results. That would be a choice you could make at this point in time too. Gloom and doom within the gay community over many years along with a sense of social stigmatization can really affect the mind after a while. You are actively working and living your life and have lived a good amount of your life directly in contact with much of the real trauma that you have described. I am only here to say that having lived in the epicenter of NYC during many years of the dark days of fear and death and sadness, I had to work very hard to shed some deep-rooted layers of fear and pain to get to where I am now. I learned to understand about survivor's guilt and how I did not have to carry any excess burdens in that respect. I had previously volunteered many of my days and nights over many years for GMHC and the Names Project to assist others so much less fortunate than myself. And you are right, it does affect your well being. But YOU are the ONLY one ultimately that can do something about this...

    Fear of rejection happens in ANY relationship. It is not unique to sero-discordant couples. So in this sense, there is nothing unusual about this statement. Regardless of hiv status or sexual orientation, humans are vulnerable to being rejected. But a strong mind and good sense of self helps one to navigate those emotional risks. Bringing issues of hiv status into this discussion would tend to cloud the issue really as the real issue is deeper than this. The real subject is do you feel good about yourself, have enough self-respect to realize that even if rejected you can stand on your own and eventually find happiness? Of course it isn't easy to date, and again, just like taking risks with dating, the troubles of finding a suitable partner is just not exclusive to people negotiating sero-compatability. I don't mean to negate your feelings and experiences here but truthfully, and I hope you will see some light in this, there are other ways to view the world and what is possible. Look to those you are helping with health issues to see how they have made changes and found better ways to view their own situations. It is like the story of the shoemaker who makes beautiful shoes for everyone else but his own are worn with holes. Time to change those soles, your own soul too if you will pardon the pun.

    When one realizes that one is not here just to care for everyone else but can also care for themselves a bit without a sense of guilt, (not easy given what you have witnessed and where you are now) then one has shed a layer that serves only to prevent intimacy from happening. Intimacy is about give and take and feeling comfortable in relationship. It is not about living continually in fear. None of us can take these fears away for you. But hopefully, some outside insight here, limited as it might be, might help you to see other possibilities. There are other choices, other ways of viewing how you live you life, how you might approach dating and these kinds of choices, and ultimately, how you grant yourself happiness and peace within. I sincerely hope you find this too and wish you luck as well.
     
  9. simcha

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    Wow, I didn't realize that I gave off the sense of gloom and doom. Perhaps I'm more pessimistic than I would be willing to admit. And yet, I keep getting back up on that horse and I keep living... And I'm all about free agency and choices. And I also know there is a balance between free agency and environmental factors. One can only control so much in one's own life. There are some things that you can't change. Sometimes acceptance is the best answer to things like this. And for me, acceptance allows me some sense of serenity, once I get there...

    This is so absolutely true. And, the topic of serodiscordance is relevant to this relationship. Rejection is universal. Serodiscordance complicates the issue.

    Yes, thanks for taking the time to write this. I do feel good about myself. And it isn't necessary for me to have a boyfriend to be happy. I've been single in my life more than I've been coupled. I've been happy with myself and my life more than I've been sad about it. And one of the hazards of being a "professional caretaker" is that you can end up neglecting yourself. This doesn't serve me and it most certainly doesn't serve my clients. I do lots of work on myself for myself. And I do it because it's necessary for me to be able to do my work. It goes back to, "Physician, heal thyself." It always has to begin with me.

    Absolutely true... Again, I know that I have no business taking care of others if I cannot even take care of myself.

    Yes, this is so true. I never claimed to be free of my own intimacy issues. There are always choices. And, sometimes acceptance is the right choice. I just spent the entire night with this guy last night, he just left my place this morning... It was an incredible night. We talked, laughed, ate, cuddled, and slept. And, no, we didn't do anything sexual. Well, we did kiss a lot...:smile: And I'm so very comfortable with him. We are developing a bond and getting to know each other. So, this discussion will continue, for us anyway...

    And I wish you luck and may you find happiness and peace too.
     
  10. Wolfhawke

    Wolfhawke New Member

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    I'm probably going to get flak from both sides of the issue, but I'm going to say that yes, if you both really love each other and understand fully what the risks are and are willing to use protection, then go for it.

    I'm a poz guy that is dating a neg guy. We have talked about the issue and we're both comfortable with using a rubber when the time for him to finally top me comes or on those rare occasions I want to top.

    Meanwhile, the hungry anal versatile bottom has had to use his imagination while we frot... It works if I'm really in the mood, but nothing substitutes a nice sized real cock in the ass (rubber or no).

    There are ways to be intimate that doesn't involve sticking a dick (or having your dick stuck in) a hole. Just IMHO
     
  11. college22punk9

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    I believe you shouldn't let a virus in someone's system alter your feelings towards someone. If sex is the biggest thing holding you together, and there are a bunch of issues that come up from that (you and/or him being afraid that you'd get it), then maybe it's not meant to be, but if you are in love, why are you going to let a virus stop your feelings for each other? So your love life might get a little dysfunctional at times..... big deal, becuase you'd be with the person you are supposed to be with.

    And on the hypothetical note, I guess you could be so ocnsumed and scared of HIV, that you could be missing out on something great, only to die next week in a car accident.


    Don't let fear make decisions for you.
     
  12. Rugbypup

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    Perhaps it is fear, i dont really know ,but being truly honest here, i wouldnt choose to persue a relationship with a partner who is knowingly HIV+.

    Im not sure what that makes me, other than honest.
     
  13. Industrialsize

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    I'm negative and have had sex with men I know to be positive......when I have sex with a man, I act as if all of my sex partners are positive, even if they might say they're not......simple as that.....I'm neg and plan to stay that way...If i were in a relationship with someone that was positive, their status would be the least of my worries.....I would worry about the health of the person i was in a relationship with and any future health problems they may have...
     
  14. Not_Punny

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    Wow, what a beautiful thread.

    Yeah, I'm a girl, yeah, I'm straight, but my ex is gay (now one of my best friends), and I live on the periphery of this world.

    So.... here's a viewpoint from someone on the outside looking in:

    Quite frankly, Simcha, the risk of you contracting the virus are probably LESS with this man than without him.

    Not everyone knows what their status is (due to the initial incubation time). Not everyone is honest about it. And you will probably have sex with LESS partners if you have a LT relationship with this man than you would without him = less risk.

    Soooo.... another way of looking at this.

    Good luck. :wink:
     
  15. simcha

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    Good point. I hadn't thought of that. Thanks...
     
  16. jason_els

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    How's it working out Simcha? What did you decide?
     
  17. simcha

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    Jason,

    We're friends now. He has a lot of issues. He's afraid of hurting me. He has a hard time believing that I would want to be with him (I do, I like him a lot and could develop stronger feelings for him). He has a lot going on with his nephew who has had illness and behavioral problems. Also, he's had a lot of stress at work. Basically he's not available for anything other than a friendship right now.

    He did meet my Mom and my Brother when they were in town a couple of weeks ago. He helped me and my Mom pick out some furniture for my apartment.

    I haven't heard from him in a bit because he's on vacation in Hawaii. I think he returns tomorrow. He invited me to a party with his friends on Oct. 27th so he does want to be involved with me on some level.

    I don't know if this relationship will ever go toward the romantic side. It has nothing to do with HIV now, it seems. It has to do with emotional and energetic availability.

    I don't know about being involved with anyone myself these days. I seem to attract men who aren't ready for romantic relationships and they become friends. Friends are very important to me so this is positive. I do want a romantic partner. I just don't know how or when that will happen. I remain open to possibilities though.

    So, I've decided to be his friend and support him at the moment. I'll hang around him and his friends. He'll come and hang out with my friends too. So, we'll see what comes of that. If he remains a friend, I see that as a very positive thing. I'm quite fond of him.
     
  18. jason_els

    jason_els <img border="0" src="/images/badges/gold_member.gi

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    This is good. Too bad about the commitment issues but I agree. Friends are important, particularly gay friends. They can be a great source of support (as I'm discovering). As I figure it, if you were really attracted to the person then the romantic aspect was just a single color on a much broader canvas. Even if that part doesn't work out, there is still much more to appreciate.
     
  19. NCbear

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    What a moving series of posts. Truly, Simcha, I hope you and this man have the opportunity to broaden and deepen your relationship.

    My best to you.

    NCbear (who was almost moved to tears by the supportive comments as well as the obvious sympathy for Simcha's situation)
     
  20. Dal2AR

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    Simcha... I've been on your side of the table several times. One time in particular... I was TOTALLY in love with and lived with a man who I planned on a permanent relationship. He is pos and I am neg. I never made an issue of it and he was overly careful with me. Physically that is. I think there was a lot of bitterness over his status and his ex that intentionally infected him. Whatever the case, it wasn't my fault and I didn't deserve to be on the receiving end of his horrible emotional and psychological abuse. My friends hated him...and I grew to after being told I didn't make enough money for him. I did fire back at him in a manner that I sort of regret...I told him that I am young and negative, the two things he can never buy. We avoid the same zip code now.
    My attitude was very open at that time. I don't know whether it is so much anymore. While, in concept, I wouldn't have any problem seeing someone who's pos, I'm not sure my last experience hasn't burned me. We'll see. I'm thinking a convent is my next stop as I look GREAT in black.
     
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