We asked our followers on social media. They responded with some candid—and brave—answers
Note: Some of the following is graphic in nature. Responses have been edited for clarity.
“More health complications like back pain, arthritis, heart issues, blood pressure, diabetes, lowered libido, neuropathy, just to name a few. Let me focus on the neuropathy to start. If it gets bad in your feet, it can be a real “distraction”—heart and blood pressure issues and the meds to treat them can really hinder a man’s performance. Back pain issues and arthritis can definitely create issues in the bedroom.”
—D. Elijah Vanlue, Jr.
“I like to think that I am a very sexual person, with a lot of love and affection to give. It seems I have developed a very low level of self-esteem, so I have been celibate for a few years, unfortunately. It seems like I have placed some unnecessary things on me, telling myself that I am not desirable because of my disability and my HIV status. What is ironic is that I speak to groups about the wonders of U=U [Undetectable = Untransmittable], but don’t apply it to my own life.
“I have placed on myself the expectation that others see me as ‘untouchable’, because when I remove my Cochlear implant and hearing aid, I am deaf. The fact that I use a cane to walk is not an issue to many, but I have made it one for me.
“I guess that the largest barrier in my life towards a sexual relationship are my own barriers. I need to learn how to celebrate the person that I am, enjoy my life, and things will fall into place—knock on wood.”
—Mark L. Grantham
“My sex life was destroyed the day I was diagnosed. Although I was in a marriage, the trauma associated with an HIV diagnosis became a diagnosis that was associated with sex for me. It’s actually kind of painful to talk about. U=U gave me my womanhood back. Stigma continues to take it away. So, I have become comfortable living a sexless life.”
“I have been HIV-positive since 1984, with no effect on my sexual function. In August 1995, after 23 years in New York, I got sick and three days later was home in the UK, and diagnosed with AIDS. Since getting on that plane, I have never been sexually aroused or ever had a full erection. I realise now, it will never return, and every kind of treatment or pill has failed miserably. Not the end of the world, but sure makes for a lonely existence.”
—P. Michael Hebington
“I have not been touched in over four years. It is my understanding that it takes being actually physically touched for it to be called sex. Zoom and Skype don’t count. I have been living with AIDS for over half of my life.
I am 63 years old, and I am not dead yet.”
“My husband and I are 69 and 70. Both of us live with HIV. No, HIV did not in any way change our sex life. It’s less frequent now but that’s age, not HIV. We are a long married heterosexual couple.”
—Veritee Reed Hall
“Fifty-two years old here. Somehow sex with my life partner is not as intense as cuddling and deep conversation now. Daily activities and the need to rest more make sex not the first priority.
“I guess it’s not about HIV but how we decided to spend our time based on our life priorities.
“My previous partner was HIV-negative, understood U=U, and had no problem with barebacking. My current partner is HIV-positive, so we have more freedom to talk about HIV-related issues because we’re in the same boat.”
“My sex life changed dramatically at age 45. It became more difficult to get and keep an erection. At 61, things haven’t gotten better. My infectious disease specialist didn’t respond when I asked for a Viagra prescription. Friends have suggested Cialis, but I’m concerned about my blood pressure since it’s varied so much since 2007. At one point it was low, then under control, now somewhat better/borderline. My thing to compensate is by presenting myself as a ‘still sexy 61-year-old’ if and when I meet the right guy who will not have a problem with my erectile dysfunction. ED is slowly becoming more and more common. The male ego is hesitant to want to talk about it.”
“Sex is a four-letter word to me and that word is none.”
“It’s all happening for me in the metaverse now.”
“It’s disintegrated to nothing. Maybe if the meds hadn’t caused lipodystrophy it would have been a different story.”
“Mine has largely been replaced with other forms of affection and intimacy. And that’s OK.”