People living with HIV and AIDS live in fear of rejection and fear disclosing their status to those around them for fear of being judged and discarded

Relationships in this HIV and AIDS era

People living with HIV and AIDS live in fear of rejection and fear disclosing their status to those around them for fear of being judged and discarded.

Dating and HIV. Both sides of the story. What are the associated risks?

People living with HIV and AIDS live in fear of rejection that by disclosing their status to those around them they may be judged and abandoned.

For most us when we’re growing up we look forward to completing school, meeting that perfect partner, getting married and having children. In today’s modern society it doesn’t always happen in that order and sometimes the children come before the nuptials, or the nuptials don’t come at all. It is difficult enough to date or find love in today’s fast-paced world where people have high expectations of themselves and their potential partners. Being HIV positive makes it twice as hard.

People living with HIV and AIDS live in fear of rejection and fear disclosing their status to those around them for fear of being judged and discarded. We sometimes feel it would be better to date other people who are also living with the condition and this is called a seroconcordant relationship. A seroconcordant relationship is one where two people who are both HIV positive are in the relationship. Of course, that does not mean that HIV negative people cannot date people who are HIV positive! These types of relationships are called serodiscordant (when one partner in a relationship is HIV positive and the other partner is HIV negative) and they can be just as successful as relationships between two HIV negative people. A universal key to success for relationships, regardless of HIV status, is trust and respect.

If you are in a serodiscordant relationship the best thing you can do for your HIV negative partner is to educate them on the condition and ensure that they have sufficient knowledge so as to know the associated risks, how to avoid them and importantly, how to support you on your journey.

“But how can I be in a physical relationship with an HIV negative person without infecting them?”

Through medical treatment and taking some precautions, the good news is that it is possible to have a happy, healthy relationship without infecting your partner:

  • By engaging in safe sexual practices by using condoms you can prevent the virus from being transmitted
  • Your HIV negative partner can commit to taking PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis)-medication that prevents infection from the HIV positive partner (PrEP can be taken by anyone in any type of sexual relationship and is effective when used in conjunction with condoms and has been shown to reduce the risk of infection by up to 90%)
  • Continuous monitoring and testing for HIV every 3 months

“What happens if I get exposed to HIV? Can I still stop the virus from infecting me?”

It is possible to stop the HI virus from taking hold in your body as long as you act as soon as you have been exposed. It is of extreme importance that you seek medical treatment as soon as possible. Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatments consist of 2-3 antiretroviral medications that are most effective when taken within 72 hours after exposure before the virus has had time to replicate (grow and spread) in the body and should be taken for 28 days. This treatment is also provided to rape survivors and medical professionals exposed to HIV through their interactions with infected patients, however, PEP is not 100% guaranteed to prevent HIV infection.

Finding love in an era of HIV and AIDS

The good news is that we are not alone and there are online matching and dating sites that cater specifically for people living with HIV. For the brave who are not shy to look for a soul-mate online check out www.positivenetwork.co.za and www.hivdatingsouthafrica.co.za.

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