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Need Wood bannersI’ve just converted and I don’t mean to Christianity.  I’m a wreck about telling tricks and dates that I’m HIV positive.  I have this huge nervousness about disclosing.  It’s like going to the doctor for a shot.  You see that big dreaded needle coming at you…

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Hey Woody,

I’ve just converted and I don’t mean to Christianity.  I’m a wreck about telling tricks and dates that I’m HIV positive.  I have this huge nervousness about disclosing.  It’s like going to the doctor for a shot.  You see that big dreaded needle coming at you and you’re sure you’re going to die.  The worst Need Wood 1part about it is that I always turned down positive guys when I was negative, and now the shoe’s on the other foot.  I’m so conflicted about when to tell, who to tell and the best way of telling.  Help!

— Staying Positive


Dear Staying:

The answer depends on whether you’re a d@*k-hopper or date-shopper.  Here are the most common rationales guys use to disclose and my thoughts on them.

Category:  One-Night Stands

Tactic:  You don’t ask or tell—but you play it safe.

Rationale:  As long as you have safe sex you’re not doing anything ethically wrong.

Woody’s View:  Just because you think something’s safe doesn’t mean he does.  Protecting your partner is more important than protecting your privacy. Ask them what they consider to be safe sex and stick to it.

 Upside:  You get to stick your penis in anything with a pulse.

Downside:  Endangering the potential for something bigger.  Many a long-term relationship starts with a one-night stand.

Tactic:  Telling right away

Rationale:  You want to give people the choice that you were denied.

Woody’s View:  Excellent.  But steel yourself for a bad reaction.  Know they’re not rejecting you; they’re rejecting the virus.  It’s like the last time I turned down a guy.  He had some kind of fashion virus.  I didn’t reject him, I rejected his outfit. 

Upside:  Having your bedroom sound like half-price day at the liposuction center without feeling any guilt.

 Downside:  No sex, no nookie, and feeling as vulnerable as a dog outside a Korean meat packing plant.

Tactic:  Avoid Casual Sex

 Rationale:  You give up on the restorative power of new meat.  You learn to look for other things in a person—their personality, their sense of humor, their character.  In other words, you turn into a woman.  You think, “why am I going through all this drama for 15 minutes of pleasure?”

 Woody’s View:  It’s one thing to give up casual sex because you don’t like it, it’s another thing to avoid it because you’re paralyzed by anticipatory rejection. There’s a difference between protecting and imprisoning yourself. If you’re too horny to be celibate and too scared to disclose then split the difference the way some of my friends split their thighs—for positive people only.

Upside:  Less stress, less STDs, more intimacy.  Plus, you’ll have the strongest right hand in town.

Downside:  All talk and no action sucks.  Besides, it’s not just about sex.  What about physical affection?  You can’t feed “skin hunger” with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s.   

Unloading the Date Freight

 Tactic: You Disclose on the First Date

Rationale:  You’re so emotionally vulnerable you feel like a walking piñata.  It’s one thing to get your candy cracked open by a big stick in bed, but it’s an entirely different thing to have it done on your heart.   So you say it on the first date because there’s not a whole lot of emotional investment, which keeps your dignity intact if the date walks away. 

Upside:  No secrets, more bounce back potential if you get dumped.

Downside:  Being seen as a blinking “Hazardous Waste” sign rather than a human being with a manageable condition. 

Tactic:  You disclose on the second, third or ninth date

 Rationale:  Talking about serostatus isn’t exactly best first date material. What are you going to say, ‘Hi, I’m Kevin, I’m HIV positive, how are you?’  I don’t think so.

Upside:  Seen for whom you are not what you have. 

Downside:  You get dumped before you get humped.

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