I've been a follower of yours for a while and I have to say I like that you help us young furs out with our problems as best as you can and for that I say thanxs on behalf of all the young furries out there.
Now onto my issue. I'm African American, living in Blue Springs, MO. I live with another fur who shall be known as Serrin. I like him a lot. But right now I'm currently mated to another fur that lives out of state. Now as far as But I'm also pretty sure that I'm the only fur in my area diagnosed as HIV positive.... I’ve been diagnosed HIV positive for a good 3 years now unfortunately.
It was actually a little after that time that I joined the Furry Fandom. It's been kinda hard for me to find a person in my area to even be around me let alone a furry ... mainly because of my HIV. Right now I’m classified as HIV undetectable because I’ve been taking medicine for treatment for 2 and a half years. But its also been hard to find a mate that would accept me for who I am. I've had a lot of support from my fur family who consist of mostly males (Serrin being one of those males who also knows of my condition) and ever since I told them about my condition they've all been trying their hardest to help me find someone.
Recently I started dating this cute collie furry named Furi. He lives in TX but wants to visit sometime in the winter. Now I haven’t told him about my condition. Mainly because I'm extremely scared that its going to drive him away.... I love him very much and when he graduates school I plan to propose to him. But I don’t want my condition to risk me being alone again. I've been through 3 relationships in the past 2 years that have fallen through because of my condition among other things.
I'm not scared to admit it to other people that I meet but lately I've been keeping it to myself because of my fear of driving others away. It’s bad enough I'm alone in my IRL family except for my out of state biological father.... Most of my family treats me like an outcast nowadays. I don't want to be branded an outcast among the only community of people I think understand me. I'd like to know if there’s any way I can break the news to Furi without driving him away and if there is anyway I can live a life without fear of driving other furs away without being ashamed of my condition. If there’s is anything you can do to help me it'd be greatly appreciated.
A bolf named Smokey (age 23)
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Thank you for writing me and allowing me to publish your letter on this website. While I have commented in the past about HIV and the risks of contracting it, you are actually the first positive person who has had the courage to contact me and ask about it. I’m really quite surprised it has taken over two years for this to happen, but here we are.
I’m very sorry you have HIV, but, if it comes to having this disease, at least you didn’t have it in the 1980s when it was nearly always a death sentence. Treatment is much better today (as evidenced by your current state of health), yet the cocktail of drugs that are necessary to keep the disease at bay can still be hard on the body. Now, while some people might tell you this is going to shorten your lifespan, the truth is not so horrible. Studies show that someone your age with HIV who maintains a healthy lifestyle will live, on average, just 5 months less than someone who doesn’t have it. Pretty statistically negligible.
The other hopeful news is that great strides are being made in actually curing HIV. Recently, scientists were able to completely destroy the virus under laboratory conditions, which means the next step will soon be animal testing, and, finally, testing in human patients. I am of the opinion that a cure could be found within your lifetime.
As you likely already know, when AIDS and HIV first spilled onto the newspaper headlines, it was a disease largely associated with gay men. Some people—especially the self-righteous—called it the “gay cancer.” Even though that quickly changed and heterosexual people got it, too, that stigma of associating it with homosexuals, and that this was somehow “God’s punishment” for sexual sins, has remained. (I’m not going to ask you how you contracted the virus because that should be irrelevant to anyone who truly cares about you.)
[I will pause for a moment for my readers about this, however. There are a lot of young people—furries included—who risk unprotected sex with strangers or people they know very little about because that person says things like, “Oh, I’m not sick, I feel fine, I know I’m negative.” You can be positive for days, even months, without feeling sick. This is why when people get tested, doctors ask them to test again in 6 months to be absolutely sure because you might test fine if you have very recently contracted the disease (cf. http://www.hiv.va.gov/patient/testing/what-results-mean.asp). Finally, while unprotected sex (or sharing of needles when taking drugs) is the most likely ways of getting HIV, you can also get it if you have an open cut or sore that comes into contact with an infected person’s blood or other secretions. The popular notion about oral sex being completely safe is therefore not altogether true. Even bleeding gums might leave you vulnerable.]
But people are not going to catch HIV from casual contact with a poz person, and that includes contact with sweat and saliva (through sneezing or kissing, for instance). And you definitely won’t catch it from just touching someone with it. People who shy away from you for those reasons need to be educated and take a chill pill.
Even if they realize they won’t catch the disease that way, the other thing that happens—as you are now sadly experiencing, Smokey—is treating you like a pariah and shunning you socially. As they say, it’s times like these when you learn who your true friends—and family!—really are. If they love and respect you, they should accept you, problems included. If you had, say, brain cancer, would these people abandon you? HIV is an illness like any other. If they hate the person with the disease because of how it can be contracted, then what they are really hating is your lifestyle. No one is perfect, and if you went digging into their closets, I’m sure you would fine things they are not proud of, too.
Respect, however, works both ways. Just as you expect others to treat you with kindness and consideration, you should do the same to them when you are in a relationship that could entail a sexual component, even if that might mean losing them (and the good ones won’t leave). Think of it this way: say you got together with Furi and you hit it off, but you don’t tell him you’re poz. Some months, maybe even years go by, then something happens where you have to tell him (for example, he wants to have unprotected sex because you’ve become monogamous). At that point, if you don’t tell him and have bareback sex, you have literally committed a crime, as well as a betrayal. If you DO tell him, he’s got to wonder whether you recently cheated on him and now have HIV or if you’ve been lying to him all along. An even worse scenario is that he finds out you are poz from someone else who knows, and then he’ll wonder why you didn’t tell him (the fear being that you might have intended to have sex with him without informing him of the potential risks). Any of these scenarios would damage, if not destroy, your relationship.
Papabear gets letters all the time from furries who want secret, magical alternatives to telling the simple truth, or tips on how to say something difficult in a way that will make it sound not so bad. But the reality of it is that you have HIV and there is no way to sugarcoat it. It’s okay if you don’t volunteer this information to everyone you meet (one doesn’t meet people and immediately start going over their sexual history), but when you do get into a relationship and want to have sex, the ONLY thing to do is to tell the truth right from the beginning. Fear often leads us to bad decisions, but it’s much worse when those bad decisions affect other innocent people.
Don’t tell Furi about this stuff over the phone or computer. Let him come and visit you in person and spend some time together. It might be that, in person, you don’t hit it off as much as you thought you would. But, if you two really do click, then sit him down and gently tell him, looking him straight in the eye. Some things you might say.....
“Furi, I really like you, and I think you like me, too. I want you to know that, if you want to take this any further than friendship, there is something important to say. While I am in good health now and taking medicine, a couple years ago I contracted HIV. I’m doing well, and it is undetectable, but I can’t have unprotected sex with you. It would be safe with a condom, though. I really care a lot about you and I don’t want to hurt you. I’ve lost a lot of close friends and family who can’t handle the fact that I am poz. Please don’t be like them. There is absolutely no risk to you with just casual contact like kissing and hugging. If you have any questions, just ask. I’m being totally honest with you here and I respect you, and that’s why I have told you the truth. I could really use a friend right now, and I hope that friend is you.”
Here’s hoping Furi deserves the feelings you have for him and is a good guy.
Wishing you love and companionship,
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