As a reluctant HIV-positive activist, I am often bombarded with the secret misgivings of closeted HIV-positive men from across the country. No matter how much or how little they know about HIV or how short or how long they have been living with the virus, there seems to be only one singular concern on their mind: They are afraid of being rejected by a potential love interest because of their HIV status. These boys are looking for answers, but they are afraid of the one they might get.
You are going to be rejected.
It is true, and it is going to happen eventually. Someone is going to shut you down before they get to know you because you are living with HIV. It sucks, it isn't fair, and there is nothing that you can do about how they feel.
But maybe you think you can overshadow the fear that your potential mate has of HIV. You think that you can charm someone with your personality and dazzle your date with your dashing good looks so much that they just won't be able to let you go, HIV status be damned. You think maybe if you wait a couple of beats before disclosing your status, they will get to know you and look past your HIV symbol. You speak softly and explain that it doesn't make a difference, that your viral load is undetectable, that it is totally safe.
But make no mistake: If he is the kind of guy who would shut you down before a first date, it doesn't matter how cute you are or how hard he laughs at your jokes. There are some people who are either blindly fearful of anything in the gay community with a plus sign attached to it or, for whatever reason, shallow enough to reject you because of the social stigma that comes with the package. Either way, you might as well be reciting the national anthem of Ethiopia, because his ears turned off the second you said "HIV."
It is hard to accept that some people are unwilling to give you a chance because of something that you cannot change. But there is something you can do about how you react to it.
Stop equating rejection with loss.
You didn't lose anything, and you most certainly saved the time you would have wasted on a guy who wasn't right for you. Whether you are HIV-positive or not, the first step to having a healthy outlook on love and relationships is to realize that you are happier by yourself than miserable with the wrong man.
Everyone gets rejected, whether you are HIV-positive, too short, not short enough, too quiet, too loud, a slob, a clean freak, too attached to your mom, not attached enough, whatever. It doesn't matter. You most likely have voided a relationship for a reason as shallow as an HIV status before, and you will most likely do it again. The key is to do it without malice, to be respectful of other people for who they are, and to not hold it against someone for not wanting you.
Now, regarding the whole "love" thing: People fall in love with those who have love for themselves. You may not realize it, but you already have a boyfriend, and he is staring right back at you in the mirror. If you are constantly wondering whether you will ever find love again and think of yourself as a lost cause, you need to slap yourself right across the face, because you are the worst boyfriend you could have. And guess what? The guy you have a date with is going to notice.
If you can't treat yourself with the respect you deserve, you can never expect anyone else to respect you, much less want to call you his boyfriend. Conversely, self-respect and self-love have ways of placing you in just the right place to meet the one who is right for you.
The only way to ever be sure if he is the right man for you is to be certain that you aren't with him just because you are worried he might be the last one who would want the job. You should be with him because he truly makes you happy and you don't have a problem with walking away if that ever changes.
Rejection is a part of life, and, if exercised properly, it can be a healthy and affirmative practice. You should reject anyone who makes you feel as if you aren't good enough. You should reject the notion that you aren't deserving of happiness, love and nothing less than fireworks. Most importantly, you should reject the notion that anyone worth your time could possibly reject you for being HIV-positive.
Fall in love with yourself, then get your ass out there and meet someone worth it.