Joanna: "Dating is hectic, so I put a personal ad in the paper"

Joanna*, 25, an HIV-positive schoolteacher who lives in the Ugandan capital, Kampala, decided to take a chance on love by putting a personal advertisement in the newspaper. She spoke to IRIN/PlusNews before her first date with a man who responded.

"I've only dated one person who doesn't have HIV. It's kind of hectic, because you don't know your future or how it's going to be. You're not ready to pass on the infection to this other person. That's why I put up my ad in the Meeting Point section of the New Vision [a national daily].

I just wanted to see, would it work? Does it work? But then ... I opened my e-mail and there were a lot of e-mails from guys - maybe 20.

I'm going on a date this Sunday. We're not so sure what we're going to do - I don't like sitting down when I'm meeting a person for the first time, so maybe we'll go somewhere or do something. Somewhere with an activity, not just to talk and eat.

What I liked about him is that when we talk, he treats you like a person. The others were interested in 'How do you look?' and I don't want a person who is interested in how I look, but in my character. We have talked on the phone for three weeks now. He works upcountry – he's an administrator with some NGO [non-governmental organisation] dealing with HIV.

I hope he'll be like the kind of person I imagined on the phone; someone who is fun, not someone who has sadness or is into depression. Some people go on and on about their status and that kind of thing - they haven't gotten over it. I hope he shows some character; I want someone who is free to be himself.

I'm scared, I really want it to work out, but what if it doesn't? What if we get there and we can't talk? What if we communicate so much on the phone but then there's nothing in person?

After the date

We met at 10 in the morning and went to church, and then we sat and talked. Before we knew it, it was already three in the afternoon. We went and took pictures at MegaPix [a local photo studio]. He just wanted a picture of me and I told him and let's go and take pictures. We liked each other. It was okay, and comfortable.

He's [HIV] positive and I like that - it's not like maybe at some point you have to leave someone or you have to hide something.

Update

IRIN/PlusNews contacted Joanna again a few weeks later. She and her blind date have really hit it off; they speak on the phone for an hour every day and he plans to visit Kampala again soon to see her. He has met one of her sisters and she has met one of his friends.

Joanna says, "We are friends, but the indication [is that] we may develop it from friendship to another [relationship] ... I like him."

gg/kr/he

*Not her real name