Living with HIV, Tel Aviv 2014

A captivating new interview peeks into the life of a gay couple living in Tel Aviv, with one partner HIV positive, and the other negative. “Get to know the person, not his bacteria,” they advise.

The relationship of N. and B. began 19 years after N. found out that he was HIV positive. Despite being diagnosed with HIV, N. never denied himself building a relationship with a person who is HIV negative, as many other HIV+ people have chosen.

“There are some HIV+ people who prefer to look specifically for other HIV+ people for a relationship,” says N., “because they think it will be much easier and will prevent them from having to go through the part of telling and dealing with the reactions. I don’t believe it, because maybe my neighbor who is not HIV+ would be the love of my life, and I’m not willing to miss the love of my life just because of that.”

Four and a half years ago N. found the love of his life when he met B. “N. worked at the grocery store where I bought my sandwiches for work every morning,” says B. “He kept his eye on me, we started talking and from there things rolled on.”

When did he tell you that he was HIV positive?

“The truth is that it was at a very early stage. On the first date he invited me to a nature party, and when I got there we danced a bit and then went for a nature walk. We sat on a rock and I went to kiss him, and then he stopped me and told me that he was living with HIV.”

How did you react?

“I just told him, ‘OK,’ and kissed him. But we didn’t have sex that night. Then when we continued dating I asked him for explanations so I could understand all there is to know.”

Weren’t you afraid to get into a relationship with an HIV carrier?

“I’ve never known an HIV-positive person. But it’s something in the blood and he’s dealing with it and all is well. It didn’t bother me.”

Do you think that the fear of people to be partners of HIV positive people is justified?

“It’s very individual. It depends on who you are and who your partner is, and how you manage it.”

Did you tell your friends and family about the condition of your partner?

“I have three close friends who know about him and don’t get too excited about it. I didn’t tell my family because I don’t think it’s relevant. They know him and love him, but they don’t know”.

The family and friends of N. know about his status, but N. wasn’t always surrounded by supportive and inclusive friends. “When I was young, I experienced many rejections because of being HIV-positive. I received many comments that today I recall with a laugh, but this was after a long period of time when I was learning to be consolidated and love myself, to understand who I am and what I am worth, and what I deserve without compromise. Because there’s nothing to compromise for. ”

Even before he received a definite answer, rumors began in the kibbutz where he lives that N. was HIV-positive. “After I got the answer, I didn’t know if and how to tell everyone, everyone knew I did the test and was waiting for an answer. After a month when the results didn’t arrive, they started to gossip and whisper and began to move away from me. From a boy in the center of the society I was thrown to the side. After two months they started treating me as a carrier without knowing for sure, because I still hadn’t recieved an answer. ”

And when the answer finally arrived?

“I initiated a talk for the kibbutz so that the doctor could explain to my friends about HIV. He explained that it doesn’t pass through the saliva, he gave tools and services, but it didn’t help. I experienced what it means to be a carrier in the most difficult way, of someone who was removed because he was carrying. ”

Despite experiencing alienation and distance in the first years after he was diagnosed, he didn’t refrain from revealing his status to other people, and no longer felt afraid of the reactions.
“The behavior of people who face me often depends on what I broadcast about it. If I broadcast security or insecurity, how I live with myself, whether or not I feel strong. I remember telling one guy, ‘I have a lot of strength, the question is whether you have. I come from a position of strength, but I’m not sure if you are strong enough for me ‘”

What is your message for carriers who are looking for a relationship?

“I would like to make it clear to them that there is nothing to be afraid of in getting the ‘no’, the refusal, because in the end will come the ‘yes’. Just don’t give up and don’t stop looking for love just because of shame or fear. If someone says no, then it’s no — just move on.”

And what would you say to people who are considering entering a relationship with an HIV positive person?

“Go with the emotion,” says B. “Even for me it took a while, like love usually does, but it wasn’t related to the virus. I never thought about it, not even the first time I kissed him. You have to get to know the person, not his bacteria.”

“I think that everything has a limit,” says N., “like mine was a limit as to how much I could cry and feel sorry for myself. Fear also has a limit. How much can people be afraid of carriers? If all carriers were coming out of the closet, so people who are afraid of carriers would encounter carriers all the time and slowly get used to the idea that we live with them and in their environment. Denial could no longer take place. There are plenty of HIV positive people and if they all came out it would have created some kind of a revolution that would force everyone to accept the reality and learn to live with us. Then, if there are people who can’t learn to live with HIV positive people and decide to run away, they will be the unusual ones, and turn out to be the losers in the end. “