Should HIV change the way you behave in relationships?

Dating and HIV. Learn the ins and outs of dating an HIV-negative person, when you are HIV-positive.

Relationships in this HIV and AIDS era.

How HIV stigma affects HIV-positive people in relationships:

Living with HIV can make dating twice as hard.

People living with HIV live in fear of rejection and fear. People living with HIV often fear disclosing their status to those around them, as they may be judged and discarded.

A seroconcordant relationship is where both people in the relationship are HIV-positive.

A serodiscordant relationship, where one partner is positive and the other is negative, can be just as successful, as with two HIV-negative people.

If you are in a serodiscordant relationship, the best thing you can do for your HIV-negative partner is to educate them on HIV. This helps to ensure that they have sufficient knowledge of the associated risks, how to avoid HIV infection and, most importantly, how to support you.

Can HIV-positive and HIV-negative people have sex?

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, including using condoms, you can prevent HIV 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. PrEP has been shown to reduce the risk of infection by up to 90%.
  • Continuous monitoring and testing for HIV every 3 months.

Can you prevent infection if you get exposed to HIV?

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 treatment consists 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. Post-exposure prophylaxis treatment should be taken for 28 days. This treatment is also provided to rape survivors and medical professionals exposed to HIV. Post-exposure prophylaxis is, however, not 100% guaranteed to prevent HIV infection, especially with a large number of sexual partners.

Important points about HIV:

• As you get older, you’ll probably want to manage your own health, care and treatment. But, just because you’re becoming an adult doesn’t mean that you’re meant to ‘know it all’.

• Remember, it’s your choice as to when, where, and how, you tell people about your HIV status.

• You might benefit from joining a local support group of other people living with HIV to share your feelings and experiences.

• Living with HIV shouldn’t stop you from having fulfilling relationships and a healthy sex life when you’re ready.

Understand more about HIV and how to live a happy, healthy life when you are HIV-positive. 

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How to approach sex while preventing the spread of HIV:

If you’re going to have sex, using external (or male) condoms or internal (or female) condoms correctly is a very effective way of preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and an unplanned pregnancy.

Many clinics provide free condoms, other contraception, and confidential advice. There are other ways of preventing unplanned pregnancy, including the contraceptive pill, implant and injection (for women).

If you’re taking HIV treatment and it’s keeping the level of HIV in your body (viral load) very low, the risk of passing it on is much lower. If you’re undetectable your body cannot transmit HIV.

It’s important to tell your healthcare professional if you’re taking HIV treatment and contraceptive drugs together, as some antiretrovirals interact with them, making the contraception less effective.

Who should take responsibility for having safe sex?

Talk to your partner before you have sex so that you can share the responsibility for having safer sex. If your partner knows about HIV, it can make it easier to talk about using condoms.

Having HIV shouldn’t stop you from having great sex. You have just as much right to a fulfilling and healthy sex life a person who doesn’t have HIV. But, don’t feel that you have to have sex just because your partner wants to. It’s up to you to decide when you’re ready for sex – it’s your choice and no one else’s.

Can you find a happy relationship as an HIV-positive person?

There are online matching and dating sites that cater specifically for people living with HIV. Check out www.positivenetwork.co.za and www.hivdatingsouthafrica.co.za.

Sources:

Avert. 2019. Being Young And HIV Positive. [online] Available at: https://www.avert.org/living-with-hiv/health-wellbeing/being-young-positive [Accessed 1 September 2020].

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