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.
In modern society, it is difficult enough to date or find love where people have high expectations of themselves and their potential partners. Living with HIV 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. A seroconcordant relationship is when both people in the relationship are HIV positive. Serodiscordant relationships (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 the condition and ensure that they have sufficient knowledge of the associated risks, how to avoid them and most importantly, how to support you.
“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 (PrEP) 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, PrEP is not 100% guaranteed to prevent HIV infection, especially with a large number of sexual partners.
• “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 young people living with HIV to share your feelings and experiences.
• Living with HIV shouldn’t stop you from having fulfilling relationships and healthy sex life when you’re ready.
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 unplanned pregnancy.
Many clinics provide free condoms and other contraception, as well as confidential information and 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 you’re untransmittable.
It’s important to tell your healthcare professional if you’re taking HIV treatment and contraceptive drugs together, as some antiretrovirals interact with them and make the contraception less effective.
Sharing responsibility for safer 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.”
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. Check out www.positivenetwork.co.za and www.hivdatingsouthafrica.co.za.