In a day and age where people celebrate everything exposed on open platforms, social networks and the streets, "show everything or show nothing at all" is what we live by.
Strangely, our social media culture promotes and celebrates such behavior, where people always feel the need to share what they are doing, did or plan to do. For both the young and the old, social media provides a convenient platform to tell it all: a new pregnancy, high blood pressure and arthritis, we know it all.
However, there is still one secret not so easy to share, one status that remains unknown and un-posted in Facebook and Twitter ... living with HIV.
Having been diagnosed with HIV eight years ago as a young woman, I have learned some lessons in the dating scene, especially the sensitive issue of sharing the secret or hiding it -- just in case the relationship doesn't work out.
I wasn't always this bold and open about my status. It was a huge challenge, especially taking my ARV pills in public.
I remember one of my boyfriends, Sipho (not his real name). We dated for two years and we were so into each other! I knew that revealing my status had to happen, but I did not have the courage to tell him. Nonetheless, I was sure that somehow we could make it despite my being HIV positive.
One day I was invited to talk on a national television program about living with HIV. There I was, openly sharing my life with HIV. Suddenly I realized that my boyfriend didn't know I was HIV positive and I had asked him to watch the show. Basically, that's how he found out. That's messed up, right?
But, know this, disclosing is not easy. There is a high chance that someone might reject me, fearing this invisible virus. Others may see me as a ticking time bomb -- not yet exploded but definitely going to.
After the TV show, Sipho and I continued dating for a few months but we never talked about HIV. He chose to ignore the whole "I am HIV positive" talk. I assumed that he was cool with it, only to realize over time that he wasn't.
I guess I expected way too much from him: just because I had accepted my status, I expected him to do the same.
So you may ask, how do you disclose to a loved one, to a potential sexual partner? When you are diagnosed, no one tells you about what may happen. "You must tell someone, your family or a close friend who can support you," is all you hear from the calm counselor.
Mmm! Tough one, hey!
So this is what I say, this is what I learned.
First, make peace with the fact that people are not the same. Some will be there for you. Others may just drop you and run away because "birds of a feather flock together." Knowing this will keep you at ease with the impact of your disclosure.
Truth is, when it comes to dating, kissing, intimacy and sex, I think it should be done safely. This means being open about being HIV positive. This secret definitely ain't sexy and it has to be exposed if you want to play safe!