How I Have Sex: ‘I Worry the Other Person May Get Infected [With HIV] Because of Me’
This month in How I Have Sex: 36-year-old R. talks about navigating intimacy and desire as someone living with HIV.
In How I Have Sex, we bring you candid retellings of people’s sexual lives that explore the multidimensional nature of this human experience. In this installment, 36-year-old R. talks about balancing hisemotional intimacy and desire as someone living with HIV.
I was diagnosed with HIV+ in December 2018. Sex life then turned totally upside down. In fact, it was not just about sex — but overall, I got the feeling that now life has stopped somewhere in the middle. There is no way out, no U-turn. It’s like you do not have control over your own life anymore.
I started experiencing symptoms some months before my diagnosis, but I wasn’t aware they were symptoms of HIV — since they presentedas a normal cold, cough, and fever. When things worsened, I spoke with the doctor, Googled the symptoms, and got to know that I was already going through HIV but the intensity was low. I remember the doctor saying it was uncommon how with such a high viral load (above4 lacs), I was still mobile without hospitalization. She said it may have been because of my healthy lifestyle. I like to work out, and was maintaining my diet at my best, because of which my immunity was not that affected.
After starting medicines at the initial stage, for almost a month, I went through side effects like dizziness, exhaustion, and feeling depressed at times. At my workplace (I work in the tourism field), no one is aware of my HIV+ status. Initially, because of the heavy medicine dose, I faced problems [in getting through the workday] because of dizziness. But it improved eventually.
The stigma also impacted my idea of [sexual] desire. It was very hard to date because you will keep on getting rejected, which ends up lowering your confidence. For two years [after the diagnosis], I was not in a proper state of mind to handle the situation.
To think that you can’t do the most excited and interesting activity the way you want or with the person you want to. Firstly I lost interest in sex. I was always worried about the other person gettinginfected because of me. So I was out from all the dating sites for a long time. At the start, I was not getting dates, not even for justa coffee. There was a time when I thoughtI will never ever get to haveanal sex again in my lifetime. This was also the reason I lost interest in sex eventually.
Later when I realized and got the confidence that I am not going to pass it on to another person, I started meeting people. But again, at the start, I used to inform the other person of my HIV+ status, because I don’t want to go half the way ahead, and then have the person reject me because of my positive diagnosis.
The major difference between before I was diagnosed and now is — most of the time, it always comes to mind that I can’t be too much aggressive while having sex. Because if any kind of bleeding starts, then the riskof [liquid] exchange is higher. Of course, earlier I was never worried [about how aggressive the sex got] but now I have to be extremely aware.
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On dating apps, I have updated my status as “positive undetectable.” On seeing that, some people salute me by saying “you have balls to say this openly,” which at least gives a positive feeling that I am not hiding anything.
The primary precaution I always take is using condoms. I am a receiver, so I like to enjoy my partner’s dominating attitude where he spanks me. I enjoy different positions. My pleasure centers include nipples, back of the neck, inner thighs, or sliding fingers on the lower back. Even a touch on theG-spot feels amazing.
Sex, sexuality, and intimacy were never common topics during
your childhood.If someone wasdiscussing movie scenes [involving intercourses], I used to overhear those discussions— that’s all. Even thatwas rare. Otherwise, my first associations with sex were through movies. I was excited to know more about it through self-exploration.
I do like foreplay and I masturbate every day. I have never done sex outdoors. So, I want to try doing it on the beach, or in the car, or something like that
. — basically,somewhere in the open place between nature. Once I had chocolate sex which I really enjoyed. That was something which was a surprise for me.
I believe in two-way communication. I do everything which will give pleasure to my partner — some like more body play and some like more orals. So it’s a mutual understanding abouthow the act goes.
Things changed when I started believing that I am not responsible for what has happened to me. Just because I am HIV+ does not mean that I am a criminal. I do meditation, chanting, and many other spiritual activities which help me build my inner confidence. One of my close friends believed in me and didn’t ever make me feel bad about it.
But now I am good and sometimes get a chance to fulfill my desires too. After being diagnosed positive, I hardly believe that I will get a [long-term] partner. But that does not mean that I have no hopes. I am looking for a partner, and until thattime, I will enjoy being single.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.