If you’re entering a new relationship with someone who has human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), or your current partner has just received a positive HIV diagnosis, you may be wondering what that means for you and your relationship. Whether it’s a new relationship — or a new diagnosis — it’s understandable to feel overwhelmed. You’ll probably have lots of questions: How at risk are you of infection? Can you continue to have sex? And how can you best support your partner?
The first thing to know is that HIV is an entirely manageable illness and by no means a death sentence for your love (or sex) life. The truth is many people who don’t have HIV are in happy and healthy relationships with HIV-positive partners. This is referred to as a “serodiscordant” relationship. However, some people prefer to use the terms “positive–negative,” “mixed-status,” or “sero-divergent” to describe their relationship.
“Any diagnosis can impact relationships,” explains psychosexual and relationship therapist Aoife Drury. “We all manage stress, worry, or anxiety in different ways, and often conflict tends to arise because of difficulties in expressing or identifying how we feel. Alongside this, specific to HIV, if there is a lack of understanding about the diagnosis, or if a stigma is being held, it can result in challenges within the dynamic. Hence the importance for couples to gain the correct information and educate themselves thoroughly to avoid myths impacting.”
By being informed about HIV, you can protect yourself from transmission while also helping your partner to stay healthy and feel supported and listened to. From using barrier protection during sex to taking preventive medication, below is everything you need to know about HIV prevention and what you can do to support your partner.