The more time we put into a relationship, the more we learn about our partner. Some revelations can be as small as learning that your partner had a sixth finger as a child. But, others can mean finding out something more serious, like learning that your partner has human immunodeficiency virus, more commonly known as HIV.
There are many myths surrounding HIV-positive people and one of them is that it is impossible to maintain a happy, healthy and sexual relationship with an HIV-negative partner. This is not true. If you learn that your partner is HIV positive and you know for sure that you are HIV negative, you are in what is called a mixed status relationship (also known as a sero-different couple).
Here are ways to help keep yourself and your partner safe.
Know Your Status
Communication is key in any relationship. So is knowing and openly discussing your HIV status. Both partners are responsible for knowing the status of their sexual health. It is heavily advised to get tested with your partner and share the results prior to engaging in sexual activity. Knowing your status reduces the likelihood of transmission.
Note: Learning that your partner is HIV positive after you’ve engaged in sexual activity is not solely their fault if you did not take the initiative to protect yourself by getting tested. Everyone should get tested at least once a year. Those with HIV-positive partners (or are at high risk of transmission) should get tested more frequently, around every three to six months.
“Create a safe space to talk about the sexual health of both partners. We focus a little too much on HIV on its own. There are other sexually transmitted infections that can occur. Talk about recent history. Remember that there are resources for both positive and negative individuals. Remember that a mix status couple can have a healthy, rewarding sexual relationship because of knowing each other’s status,” said Alan McCord, the Director of Education for Project Inform.
There are several over-the-counter tests, like OraQuick, that are accessible to those who do not have health insurance. Also, several health institutions and community groups offer free HIV testing during HIV awareness days.
“Being open and discussing status helps normalize risks. I think open and honest discussion about HIV risk and transmission is an important way to prevent HIV and normalize discussion,” said McCord.
Condoms are a very inexpensive and effective way to prevent HIV transmission. But, they must be used properly and frequently (every time). In the event that a condom breaks or slips, there are medications (PEP) that can prevent transmission.