Can Love Survive your status?
The science around safer sex is constantly evolving. Each year we’re seeing new ways to test for infections and treat members of our community. You might already know a few things about safer sex, but there is always new information popping up. In this blog post, we want to focus on the relationship terms seroconcordant and serodiscordant. So first of all, what do they mean?
Seroconcordant is used for couples who have the same HIV status, so both partners are either HIV positive or HIV negative.
Serodiscordant, also known as mixed-status, is used for couples where one partner is HIV positive, and the other partner is HIV negative.
Related: New Safer Sex Options
The terms can change faster than many of us are able to keep up with, so we decided to speak to an expert, Robbie Lawlor, about his experience as a man living with HIV. Robbie is a sex educator and HIV activist from Ireland.
Introducing Robbie Lawlor
Hello gorgeous, can you introduce yourself to the ROMEO audience?
Hi, I’m Robbie Lawlor and I am passionate about issues surrounding HIV. I set up Ireland’s first one-on-one peer support network in Ireland. I also became an event organizer in the social group, MeetUp Plus Friends. This organization sets up events around Ireland for people living with HIV, such as cinema trips, walks, running sessions, and a very popular drink night.
Are you in a serodiscordant relationship?
Yes, my boyfriend is HIV negative, and we are together for over 5 years now. Although, I do find it funny when people call our relationship a serodiscordant one, as it is so clinical. So many times, I forget I live with HIV because it is so normal and such a non-issue in my life. Serodiscordant is an interesting term for research, but in real life, he’s just my fella.
What advice do you have for couples in serodiscordant relationships?
Trust in science. When you achieve an undetectable viral load, you just cannot pass on HIV. The risk is zero. Maurice and I were part of the PARTNER study that showed conclusive evidence. Our sex life is super normal, and we don’t need to wear condoms together.
I have met so many people living with HIV who ‘settle’ in relationships. Some people really hate the thought of going back on the dating scene and potentially becoming vulnerable to other strangers again. I was in a relationship like that. Every fight we had was because I had HIV. Over the lifetime of that relationship, I was made to feel second class or ‘dirty’. Once we broke up, I made two promises to myself;
1) Never think of yourself as dirty or second rate. If people act badly over your status, that’s a reflection on them and not you. I call it my filtration system. Those people aren’t the people you want in your life anyways.
2) Never keep anyone in your life that thinks negatively of your status. Life’s too short. It may seem very simplistic, and of course it’s harder than it sounds but it works for me.
Thanks to these two promises, I found a guy who I love, and HIV has never been an issue because it never has to be one.
When is a good time for potential lovers to talk about their HIV status?
Everyone has a different answer to this. Some people prefer having it on their dating app profiles – an early filtration system.
Some people wait for the first date. All power to them. This approach doesn’t really work for people who want to keep their status quiet, or those who live in a country where HIV is super stigmatized.
I always waited until the 5th date. It gave me time to figure out whether I liked the person enough, and also if they liked me. In Ireland, education about HIV is really bad and can lead to people dehumanizing you and just seeing you as a virus. On the 5th date, they see the human side to us. I’m hoping that the more Ireland is educated about U=U and PrEP, that people won’t have to feel the need to hide it at all.
Love and Suppression
The couple in the featured image at the top of this post and pictured below are actors and real life couple, Alejandría Cinque and Cachorro Lozano. Photographed by Noel Alejandro for his erotic film, Serodiscordantes.
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