THE LAST WORD with Matthew Hodson @matthew_hodson

Apparently I’m a great big slut. 

I made the mistake of reading some comments on an article I posted online about dating HIV-positive guys. Most of the comments were really supportive but there are always going to be those guys who just want to make it clear that they’re the good gay guys and I’m... well, just not. 

The reality of my love-life is something completely different. It’s not something I like to write about, partly because there’s someone else involved, and he hasn’t chosen to use the web as his confessional. I’m also wary of the curse of Katie Price: as soon as you start talking about what a perfect relationship you have you just know it’s going to go to hell. 

It’s a truism that in life, the only thing we can be certain of is change. When you make a commitment to be with someone forever you’re simply naïve if you think that everything will remain preserved exactly how it is. Over the years of your life together major changes will occur: you are likely to have to cope with new jobs, the death of parents, differences in income, you will definitely have to adjust to getting older and the physical changes that inevitably accompany ageing. That burning lust you feel for each other? That’s going to change too. 

Maybe you’ll find that your individual changes keep perfect pace with each other? Maybe all the curveballs that life throws at you will only strengthen your commitment to each other? It can happen. But you’re living in a fantasy-world if you just blithely assume that’s going to be the case. 

I’m not bitter about love and romance, far from it. I’m a great big romantic softy, shamelessly blagging my way into weddings and sobbing piteously when I’m there. I’ve known examples of wonderful, sustaining committed and monogamous gay relationships. 

But working in HIV prevention, I can no longer count the number of times I’ve heard someone say that they believed that they were in a monogamous relationship only to find out that they weren’t. That’s a harsh wake-up call at the best of times. When accompanied by an HIV diagnosis it is far from the best of times. 

So when you start down that path of coupledom, take the time to think about how you’re going to cope with all the filth that life is going to throw at you. Be careful before you judge others too harshly. You may be certain that the two of you will cleave to each other for all eternity but it only takes one of you to slip up and (bang wallop!) you’re no longer in a monogamous relationship. 

If you’ve made fidelity the very foundation of your love you might find yourself tap-dancing on quicksand. It might be that same shared commitment to monogamy that results in one partner choosing not to talk honestly about what’s going on outside of the marital bed – and that’s when the risks start getting serious.

Contrary to popular belief, it’s likely that the majority of new HIV infections aren’t from unbridled lustful liaisons with hundreds of up-for-it nightly callers but from intimate sex acts between loving partners who’ve decided that they no longer need to use condoms. As Public Health England bluntly state in their latest ‘HIV in the UK’ report, “unprotected sex with partners believed to be of the same HIV status is unsafe.” 

Maybe you look at your own little honeybun and think that this will never happen to the two of you. Perhaps you honestly believe that both of you are somehow so different from ‘those guys’ that this will never be your issue. Honestly, I hope you’re right. I wish the both of you only good things. But please, do at least stop to consider the alternative. Pride, they say, comes before a fall. All too often, in my experience, it’s the trumpeting of the perfect relationship that comes just before disaster. That’s why after this article I’m going to shut up about my relationship. If that means that people assume I’m a great big slut – so be it. 

Matthew is the Chief Executive of GMFA. This article is Matthew’s own opinion and not necessarily the view of GMFA as an organisation.