Dealing with HIV in your relationship

What if you have HIV but your partner does not? Or the other way around: What if he is HIV-positive but you are not? If one of you finds out during your relationship that he has HIV, that can be complicated. Whatever you do, make sure you communicate with each other openly and honestly about what is happening. There are also many sources of information and support.

HIV in your steady relationship

What if you get infected with HIV while you are in a steady relationship? Or the other way around: What if your steady partner gets HIV? That can be complicated in the beginning – especially if the two of you are used to fucking without condoms. If you have only just found out that you have HIV, tell your steady partner as soon as possible. That way, he can get tested too. 
If you are the HIV-negative partner, you might need some time to get used to the new situation. It helps to know that:

  • People with HIV who are receiving treatment have practically the same life expectancy as otherwise healthy people of the same age.
  • Once your partner's viral load is undetectable there is hardly any chance that he can transmit his HIV to you.
  • You are welcome to ask your partner's HIV nurse any questions that you might have. 

Are you afraid it will be difficult for you as the HIV-negative partner to keep to using condoms if the two of you have sex with other men as a couple? Discuss that with each other and make clear agreements.

Telling others that you have HIV 

No matter how difficult it might be for you when you have only just heard that you have HIV, it is important that you tell your steady partner as soon as possible. That way, he can decide to get tested.

 

 

Tell your sex partners

If you find out that you have HIV, don't forget to warn any casual partners or one-night stands whom you've had sex with over the past year if you still know how to contact them. The GGD can help you notify all your casual sex partners. 

Worried about the transmission of HIV?

You might be worried about infecting your boyfriend and feel guilty about that in advance. The other way around, you might be worried about getting infected by him. Before you know it, that could put pressure on the sex you have together. Discuss your fears and doubts with each other. There is a good chance that you are both wrestling with the same ones.  

How do you react as the HIV-negative partner?

You might be shocked to hear that your steady partner has HIV and you may need some time to get used to the idea. Or you might be angry for a while and scared that you might also be infected. The information below can help.  

Some facts about HIV

If his viral load is not (yet) undetectable:

HIV will not be transmitted if you:

  • fuck each other with condoms
  • use plenty of lube
  • make sure no sperm or blood enters your mouth or anus.

If the condom breaks or slides off during fucking, we advise you, as the HIV-negative partner, to start a PEP treatment as soon as possible but within 72 hours at the latest to prevent HIV from establishing itself in your body.
If his viral load becomes undetectable thanks to the treatment with HIV medications: 

  • There is hardly any chance that HIV will be transmitted.
  • Under certain conditions, the two of you could stop using condoms. The most important conditions, besides an undetectable viral load, are that:
    o    the HIV-positive partner must not have any other STIs, since those could increase the chances of HIV being transmitted. With a monogamous relationship, you will keep HIV away.
    o    neither of you has any damaged mucous membrane on your penis or anus (e.g. from a recent medical operation).
  • It is possible to grow old with HIV. People with HIV who don't wait too long to get treatment have more or less the same life expectancy as otherwise healthy people of the same age.
  •  HIV internists keep close track of the health of people with HIV. Someone who is HIV positive is likely to find out that he has some other health issue sooner than the average person in the Netherlands would.
  •  An HIV infection will lead to few if any limitations in your life. Most people with HIV give their health a score of eight (out of ten) or higher.

You are always welcome to talk to the HIV nurse.

Even if you react in a level-headed way as the HIV-negative partner, you naturally might still have questions or concerns. You are welcome to visit your partner's HIV nurse. They are there to answer your questions, too.

Is it difficult for you, as the HIV-negative partner, to continue using condoms?

You are now the only one in the couple who doesn't have HIV. But your partner might well have sex with other HIV-positive men and not have to use condoms to prevent HIV.

Do you find it hard to always use condoms with casual partners? Talk about this with your partner. Look together for solutions that could help you continue to use condoms with other men.

 

Is it hard for you to talk about HIV? The Servicepunt (service point) of Hiv Vereniging Nederland (HVN) offers support in that regard. Through the Marieke Bevelanderhuis, you can also request to talk with other people who are HIV positive. You can talk to them either by telephone or face to face.

Have you only just heard that you have HIV? Go to www.4mezelf.nl (information in Dutch).

 

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