Show Me The Love...................
Wayne Bristow on a project which helps people living with HIV identify their coping skills –and – gaps in dealing with sex and intimacy.
If I had a dollar for every time I heard one of my friends ask "why don't you have a someone in your life yet, you're such a nice guy, why don't people see that?” As if dating someone is going to make me a better person and I can't possibly be happy unless I have someone in my life. Good grief!
I could be twice as rich if I included the times I’ve asked myself the same question.
I just completed a survey through my local AIDS Service Organization (ASO) called "Show Me The Love". It’s funded by the Ontario HIV Treatment Network (OHTN). The purpose of the study is to understand the barriers to sexual intimacy faced by people living with HIV. When they told me about it I just had to make a little joke - "do I have to have a sex life to take part?"
The study is to understand what programs and services ASOs can adopt to support people living with HIV and the challenges they face with sexual relationships. The information is gathered during a face to face interview: participants receive a $40.00 reimbursement. So I'm thinking, “40 bucks and I don’t have to say much. I can do that." Absolutely nothing happening in that department for a while now, anyway.
The questions were formulated for discussion as opposed to a written statement, I don't think I would have been able to be as honest otherwise. They dealt with what sex life was like before and after my diagnosis, disclosure, the legal obligations of today and what would a healthy sex life look like. At the end I was allowed to return to some areas where I might want to add to.I couldn't believe how much I had shared to that point. Having the time to talk I was able to see some of my faults, things that haven't exactly been helpful. I can see myself signing up for any workshops they are able to be put together. I can sure use some help.
I've been watching Coronation Street. In the story, this character named Sean is being pursued by someone he dated before. It didn't work out but now the guy is back and a lot wiser and ready to settle down. Sean refuses to see the obvious messages from the other guy, he's trying to protect himself by ignoring what he does see, thinking he will just be let down again. The sad part is I can identify with him but I wouldn't admit it to myself. Well I wouldn't before but I can now. The King of the One Night Stands or like I wrote before, always the friend, never the boyfriend.
Several times I went through that stage thinking something more could happen if I took a friendship to the next step, only to find out the friend didn't feel the same way. Those attempts actually strengthened a few friendships and we are still friends today. It would be so easy if it had worked; they do say friends make the best partners. Live and learn. Jeeeze, this is sounding so cliché.
Here are some lessons I've learned along the way, “Never set limits or you leave yourself limited." If I was to write up a profile of my perfect partner that I should wait for, then I will be waiting a very, very long time, Brad Pitt is already taken and he isn't gay. The next thing I will avoid doing is meeting anyone online. I believe I have played every game possible on there and paid the price, I don't even go there anymore. If I meet anyone, it will be face to face, someone real that I can see for who they really are and learn to like over a period of time. And finally, I don't want to be needed. Been there, done that, I have been the rescuer too many times.
All in all, the Show Me The Love study was very good for me, Like therapy,it allowed me talk long enough so that I was able to see what I'm doing wrong and what I need to do differently. Funny thing about it is, my friends have been telling me the same thing for ages. Bring on the workshops and I will be attending my first counselling session December 14th.
If you get a chance to do the study, take it! Having HIV doesn't mean we can't have sex. We can and it can be happy, healthy and safe. Finding programs that will teach us how to enjoy sex that both mentally and physically can be so life changing.