What It’s Like Dating As A Bisexual Man Living with HIV
It’s still possible to find love.
For years, there’s been this this misconception that all bisexual men — especially those on the “down low” — spread HIV. This false trope started nearly three decades ago, evident by early research published in Public Health Briefs titled “HIV Transmission: Women Risk from Bisexual Men.”
Ignorant parties continue to claim that bi men, particularly those on the DL, “bridge the gap” of transmission between men and women. Of course, some bi men have transmitted HIV to women, just as some straight men have. Even if more DL bi men have accidentally spread HIV, the stereotype paints all bisexual men, especially those with HIV, as promiscuous liars, when that simply isn’t the case.
These negative connotations associated with bisexual men living with HIV present certain challenges to these men, who, like everyone else in this world, are trying to find meaningful romantic relationships along with fun and casual sexual connections.
We spoke with three openly bisexual, HIV+ men to discuss their experiences with love, sex, and dating, as well as to learn what’s helped them make deep connections with romantic partners —despite some folks’ hurtful and misguided perceptions of who they truly are.
David, 51, lives in Columbus, Ohio and has known he was bisexual since he was 12 — although he didn’t come out until he was 39. He notes that when he was growing up, he didn’t even know there was a name for someone attracted to multiple genders, especially since bisexuality was hardly ever represented in society.
When he tested positive for HIV at 44, he actually wasn’t too concerned. “At the time, I didn’t really think of it as anything other than somewhat of a health challenge,” David says. “I knew a lot about HIV, having volunteered at a local AIDS organization in the years prior to coming out, so I knew it was no longer the death sentence it once was and could pretty easily be controlled.”
It was only when he began dating when he “was struck by the seemingly insurmountable social roadblocks that [being positive] put up.”
Women tend to find him “gross,” whereas HIV negative men think he’s a “slut.” While the words are undoubtedly painful, David feels more guilt than anything else. “It pains me to think that my HIV status inadvertently perpetuates those myths.”
Yet, despite the roadblocks, David has dated other people since his diagnosis. He usually meets them “through being social with friends when they go out on the town and such.” They have, however, all been men because gay and bisexual men tend to have more knowledge and subsequently less fear of the virus than cisgender and straight women.
“In this country, gay men understand HIV, but straight women definitely do not and still have a lot of misconceptions and unequivocally will shy away.”
David previously struggled with dating apps and gave up on using them five years ago, but also says he wasn’t aware of apps like DatingPositives.
Isaac, 21, finds himself dating and sleeping with more men and trans women following his diagnosis too, but also notes that’s likely because of the ease of queer hook-up apps.
Isaac was diagnosed with HIV on November 8 of 2016 — the same day Trump was elected president. Needless to say, that was one of the hardest days of Isaac’s life, who was only 19 at the time, and had just moved to NYC.
“I thought no one would want to be with me anymore, especially since I’d seen people’s dating app profiles that say: ‘I’m clean you must be too’ or something along those lines.”
“I’m deaf, transgender, bisexual, and poz,” Isaac continues, and he lists his various identities on his dating app profiles because he prefers people know beforehand. Otherwise, he risks the potential of investing time in someone and growing to really liking them, only to be rejected upon revealing components of his identity.
Most of the time, “At least one [of my identities] usually scares people away. While I know I don’t want someone who is phobic of any of those things, it definitely hurts knowing that my personality and interests could match someone else’s, but they are unwilling to try step outside of their comfort zone and learn about a group of people.”
Despite some people’s ignorance and hurtful words, Isaac actually prefers dating apps as a way to meet potential partners. On apps, people don’t message him or reply if they’re not interested. He’s also able to meet folks who share identities with him.
“The people I’ve dated [and met through apps] have been amazing. Most of them, have shared at least one of those identities with me. Having that to connect over really helps a lot in cementing a good relationship and having someone who understands me.”
Simon was married to a cisgender woman at the time of his diagnosis. (They were and still are in an ethically non-monogamous relationship). Yet, a year after his diagnosis, his life is completely back to normal. “In the end, nothing really changed,” he says.
Still, things didn’t go back to the way there were overnight. Upon receiving his positive diagnosis, Simon was “devastated.” Even though he was diagnosed at 34, the infection was determined to be “old” or “not recent” which means he could have been HIV+ anywhere between 2 – 8 years before the diagnosis. He was petrified he passed it on to this wife.
Luckily, he did not, since his viral load was naturally undetectable or close to it the entire time (until he finally went in to get tested).
Immediately after the diagnosis, Simon and his wife closed their relationship. They waited for Simon to be undetectable for three months on his new meds before opening up their relationship again.
Since they’ve opened up their relationship again, Simon now believes that his partnership with his wife is even stronger than it was before his diagnosis.
“We’re much more considerate, and we think and talk a lot about this part of our relationship. It has only made our relationship stronger.”
There are struggles that come with dating as an HIV+ bi man, but a positive diagnosis doesn’t mean the end of your dating world. With dating apps like DatingPositives – and more educated folks learning that Undetectable = Untransmittable – a positive status doesn’t have to stand in the way of love.
*indicates name was changed to protect anonymity.