Luke “The relationship was strong until I allowed the stigma to get in the way”

So before we get started on HIV stigma, let’s just start by telling us a little bit about yourself. Where are you based and what are you up to these days?

My name is Luke Jones, I am a Southerner based up in Manchester and I am student based at the University of Salford studying a BA (Hons) degree. I am also a coffee master at Starbucks as a part time job to help get me through my studies.

That’s great and even more so great that you’re based in our neck of the woods! Before delving in to your previous relationship, can I ask what your stance is now on dating HIV positive people?

I have no problem with it and neither should anyone else, they are no different to you, as a negative man I personally don’t see it as an issue you just have to make sure you are more protected, and help them achieve the journey to becoming undetectable.

It’s always great to have HIV negative people help us speak out against the stigma that HIV positive people deal with on a daily basis. We’re ultimately the ones who can essentially eradicate this stigma and we can’t do this without people like you! Can you please tell us about your experience dating a HIV positive person and what the story is behind that?

So about a year ago I dated a guy for a few months and things were going very well and I really enjoyed our time together. It got to the point where I wanted to make sure we were both safe so I asked him to get tested, and I also got tested myself, after this I did not hear from him in a few days, and the one time I did was “please can you not talk to me today I can’t deal with this” and when trying to respond I had no answer.

I worked in a nightclub at the time which is open until 10am so I was working that night, and the night after, in which he finally said can we meet up and talk? I said yes so he came round my house and I put the kettle on and he said the words “I’m so sorry” I sat their like what?! immediately I then realised why he said it and burst into tears immediately thinking I have it, he came over and hugged me and we both cried in each other’s arms.

His friend took us to the clinic as he needed to get more tests to check and confirm he was positive and I was asked to come back as I had been sleeping with him too. We went in and he got the result back and cried in to my arms at the clinic, the nurse took me into another room whilst my partner was diagnosed. The lady did not know what my status was as it had not been outside the 3 month window so there was no way to tell so I had to play the waiting game.

That night me and the boy went back to mine and we cuddled each other and I tried to relax him and calm him down. As you can imagine this was so hard to do, the emotions pouring out constantly and the way he kept blaming himself out of worry that he had passed it on to me.

The next day he got better we made breakfast and we tried to calm ourselves down and smoked a joint to try and chill so he would feel more secure. I had to go to work and I kept this on the down low as I don’t like the village (Manchester’s gay nightlife) interfering in my business and I was still petrified I might have it.

In the end we decided to finish our relationship as he thought I could not except him for who he was when actually I couldn’t accept that I don’t know who I am if anything.

He removed me from every social media network and left me to find out my result. After 3 months I found out I was negative and I was relieved but I still did worry about this boy and still do to this day even though he has probably moved on. My point is the relationship was strong until I allowed the stigma to get in the way and we ruined a very strong bond/relationship when I really felt safe with him.

That’s one hell of a story and a prime example of how HIV stigma doesn’t just effect positive people, it can affect everybody. We applaud you for your bravery and we’re sad to hear that this relationship didn’t have the happy ending that it may had well deserved. Please tell us, what impact has this relationship had on you today as an LGBT negative person?

I will never let somebody’s HIV status stop me from possibly being happy with someone, but I have also learnt so much about the virus and for people reading this it is very CONTROLLED.

Indeed it is. It is a well known fact that it actually safer to sleep with a HIV positive person with an undetectable viral load than it is to sleep with a person who does not know their status. What advice would you give to people who are in mixed status relationships?

Don’t let others bring you down. If you are happy together, you stick together!

We absolutely agree! Do you have any advice for newly diagnosed HIV positive people?

Don’t let it ruin your life, there is so much support out there and HIV is not a death sentence, it’s not even a word so don’t try and create it as one.

Thank you so much for your advice and sharing your story with us, do you have anything else you would like to say?

Change your perception. HIV are only letters until you make it out to be a word.

Want to take part in our #STIGMAWARRIOR campaign? Have your say on HIV stigma and get in touch: stigmawarrior@destigmatizehiv.com