I’m in my 20s and I’m a very, very popular social media model. Put it this way: you might not recognize me but your man and your brother do. I’m not showing off. I work hard for everything that I have. I’m very disciplined and work hard for my body. I also work very hard at my business. People see the sexy photos and videos but behind that I am building an empire with endorsements, products, appearances etc.
I’m writing because I have a secret. Only my family and two best friends know that I am HIV positive. I found out about 5 years ago. I contracted the virus from the first person I ever had sex with.
At first I was devastated. I went mini buck wild and had unprotected sex with at least about four different guys. Thankfully, they are fine. I have been monitoring the situation from a distance and they are all healthy.
After that, I shut it down sexually and put my energy into my health. I started eating right and working out and people started noticing my body and exotic look. I gained confidence and through social media was able to become a very popular model. This has brought me attention from everyone from athletes to businessmen. Obviously, I want to move forward and find love like everyone else.
My question to you, Abiola, is: when do I let a man know that I have HIV? I don’t want to let them know too early and scare them off before they get to know me. Also, this could negatively affect my career so I don’t want to just tell anybody. I don’t want them leaking my business. But I feel like even though chances are slim that I could pass it on, I should say something.
What do you think? Do I tell? When do I tell? And if my viral load is undetectable and I will be using a condom anyway, do I really have to tell a man before I have sex?
Dear Sacred Bombshell,
First of all, congratulations on having the courage to create exactly the life you want. It is a blessing that we are living in a time where HIV is far from a death sentence. Nonetheless, your instincts are right that this is a very important conversation that you need to have with anyone you are intimate with.
I am sincerely happy that you came to your senses after your initial reaction and behavior. However, it is not enough to “monitor” from a distance whether your former partners are healthy. You are obligated to let them know that they had sex with someone who has tested positive for HIV. HIV, which stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is transmitted only through bodily fluids such as: blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids and breast milk.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, Black and Latina women are disproportionately affected by HIV and AIDS.
The most recent CDC statistics reveal that:
• Around 1 in 4 people living with HIV in the United States are women.
• Most new HIV diagnoses in women are attributed to heterosexual sex.
• Between 2005 and 2014, the number of new HIV diagnoses among women declined 40%.
If you don’t feel comfortable enough to call past partners, AIDS.gov can help you find a center that will notify a past partner anonymoisly for you. According to the site, “Most state public health departments have a Partner Counseling and Referral Service (PCRS) program. PCRS can also help your partner(s) get counseling, a medical evaluation, treatment, and any other services they may need.”
First, let’s address your question of whether you need to mention your status if your viral load is undetectable. Not only do you have a moral and ethical responsibility to let a partner know your HIV status, but in some states you have a legal obligation.You can be legally prosecuted in several states for knowingly engaging in unprotected sex or behavior that puts others at risk if you have are HIV ppositive.
Don’t wait until you are in an intimate situation to let your partner know that you are HIV positive. This is definitely not a conversation that you spring on someone in the middle of a makeout session. If you are serious about someone and wanting to take things to another level, this is a good time for the conversation. Be aware that some men could feel slighted that you didn’t let them know sooner.
Make your status reveal a part of a bigger conversation rather than saying, “I have something to tell you” and putting you both into panic mode. Say, “I really care about you and am interested in taking our intimacy to another level. Your health and wellbeing are really important to me, so I would like to have a conversation about STDs, HIV and health.” Ask them if they have been tested. Then say, “I have been tested, and what only my close friends and family know is that I am HIV positive. Thankfully, I am completely healthy and my viral load is undetectable. My doctor says that for any potential partner, this means…”
Will every man willingly embrace you? No, and that is their choice, but the right one will.
A positive suggestion: What if you took the bold step of becoming an advocate for your disease and other women like you? Think of the impact you could make in the world as a beautiful, young woman who is thriving. You would really be able to use your InstaFame for good. Just something to think about; no pressure either way. It’s your choice.
As far as not wanting your HIV status to be leaked by lovers, that is also your prerogative. You can consult a lawyer about creating a standard Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that you can ask potential partners to sign when things are getting close. This should legally bind them not to put your business out there. However, no one can really legislate or control another person’s actions.
You deserve big, fat, juicy love like everyone else, my queen. The bottom line is that YES! You MUST tell any partner that you are HIV positive. You may want to find an HIV support group where you can have conversations with others who understand firsthand the challenges that you face. I see you shining and creating a beautiful life. Now that you have such a bold voice, it will be exciting to see what you say with it.