DEAR ABBY: Your advice for the attractive HIV-positive young woman was perfect if the world was perfect -- but it's not. As a middle-aged gay man, HIV-positive for 15 years, my status should shock no one -- yet I'm usually rejected once I reveal my status.
I see three imperfect choices for her: Be open about her HIV to everyone she meets (she will thereby "benefit" by having a reputation). Tell her suitors up front during the first romantic outing. Or wait until weeks into dating, only to be disappointed again and again.
I chose the second. I take care of this nasty notification business as early as possible, preferably not in the heat of passion. The lies an HIV-positive person encounters can be quite an education. I'm nearly always told, "Thanks for telling me, being honest with me. It's OK, we'll just play safe," and the guy vanishes.
I now have a wonderful partner (he's negative) who loves me as I am. One day, I hope she'll be equally blessed. -- STEVE IN L.A.
DEAR STEVE: I don't think a person's illness or disability should define her or him. I advised the woman to take the time to get to know someone -- and let him get to know her -- before having sex, and that when she was ready for physical intimacy, she should disclose. Many people disagreed, but not all. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: I have AIDS and I'm happily married. I have lived with HIV for many years and have always been up-front about it. People respect me for being honest. When I was dating, I always let the man know. If he wasn't open, then I knew he wasn't "Mr. Right." Honesty is the best policy. -- MARRIED WITH AIDS IN FLORIDA
DEAR MARRIED: I agree. And in a case like this, honesty is a must. Thanks for sharing your success story.
DEAR ABBY: I have lived with HIV for 14 years and am involved with HIV education programs. I have found it's best to get the message over with up front. While it's painful if someone you're interested in drops you because of your status, it's better to find out early than waste time on someone who can't handle it. Take it from someone who's been there many times over.
Some cities offer social events specifically for people who have HIV, and there are several online dating resources. Two of them are: www.pozmatch.com and www.positivepersonals.com. -- BEEN THERE, DONE THAT IN TEXAS
DEAR B.T.D.T.: Your letter will comfort more people than you know. Thanks for writing.
And by the way, dear readers, here are two online dating sites for people with herpes: www.h-date.com and www.hmates.com.
DEAR ABBY: You were correct when you told that writer, "If the man loves you, he won't leave you." I hope the writer believes you, because what you said is the truth.
More than a year ago, I met a charming, handsome gentleman. We're both mature professionals in our 40s. Our relationship progressed very slowly, but when things finally began to heat up, I asked him directly what his status was. After looking into his eyes for two seconds, I knew the truth. He confirmed that he was HIV-positive and had been for 18 years.
I was stunned, because he appeared to be the picture of health. He looked at me and said, "If you walk away now, I won't blame you." I'm forever grateful that he waited to tell me, and that we had built enough of a relationship that I stayed and listened.
Many people read your column, and your messages are highly regarded. Thank you for not perpetuating a "run for the hills" mentality when it comes to HIV and relationships. -- FOUND MY SOUL MATE IN PA.