Posted | West
So, you have met someone wonderful, and they have just recently filled you in on the fact that they are HIV positive. If this is something you don't have prior experience or knowledge in, you may have been at a loss for the right questions to ask at the time. You may have found yourself at a loss for words altogether. It is okay if you are feeling scared or confused. But you are here because by now you have had some time to sit with this information, and a lot of questions are coming to mind that you might feel too afraid to ask. But consider how much of a shock it was for that person when they found out - they had plenty of questions too, and they understand. But whether or not you are ready to get those answers from them in person or want to know a little bit about what to expect in this next stage of dating, this guide is for you.
Here are a few tips and helpful things to know when dating someone who is HIV positive:
Depending on how the two of you met, it is likely that they were terrified before even meeting you. From the very beginning, they wondered how, when, or if they would tell you, but the sad reality is that telling you only lifts so much weight off their shoulders. This person you are interested in continuing to date carries the stress and stigma of this virus every day, so it is worth taking some time to get to know a little bit about what they are dealing with and what to expect. The thing is, though, is they might not know what all to expect either. This might be their first time dating since being diagnosed with HIV, and in either case, every new dating venture for them since then has likely been the stress and uncertainty of any new relationship times a thousand. You might find this person shares some of the same concerns about HIV dating as you do.
It is highly likely that this person has already informed themself what to do from here, in terms of dating and intimacy, so listen to what they have to say and do not judge them if there is something they don't feel 100% about affirming. Instead, be glad you have someone who wants you to have all the facts, and whatever is missing, the two of you can seek out those resources and answers together.
If you ever have questions, do not be afraid to ask your partner, whether it is within a week of dating or a year. Hopefully, telling you the truth about their HIV status in the beginning did a lot to earn your trust, and you shouldn't need to hover over them to ensure they take their medication every day. You should give them the benefit of the doubt that they know how to manage their health until they have given you a reason to feel otherwise. If that time comes, you must address your concern, but address it from a place of kindness and understanding. It is okay to check in and see how their medication regimen is going (again, from a place of genuine concern) but overall, you need to trust the person you are with, as it will impact their level of trust for you too.
On that same note, they might not always want you around when they take their medications or go to check-ups with their HIV doctor. If they want you to go once to meet their doctor or on occasion for support, then do so if you are willing to. But they do not need to be accompanied every time - chances are nothing eventful will happen, and the person you are dating will be more concerned that you are out there waiting on them.
Unless the two of you have discussed it beforehand and agreed it is okay, do not share their HIV-positive status with anyone. Treat their situation with respect as you would any other secret and remember that it is not your news to tell. If you find yourself needing a friend to talk to about your relationship, first ask yourself if the HIV element even needs to be mentioned or if something else is on your mind. If the answer is yes to either, then you should always talk to your partner first. If the answer is yes to the first question, you need to ask and get their permission first. Alternatively, you can consider talking to a counselor where you can feel confident that these personal details will be kept private. It likely won't have to be a secret between you and your best friend forever, but allow your significant other to be in charge of the timing for that. When you communicate with others, have their best interest in mind, not just yours. Also, this should go without saying, but never introduce them to others as your partner with HIV.
Whenever you are both ready, it is essential to know that you can have a healthy physical relationship, and you can have safe sex with someone who is HIV positive. Using condoms during sex significantly decreases any chance of getting HIV. There are also highly effective medications for you and your partner, including Antiretroviral therapy (ART), Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), and Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). ART lowers the amount of HIV in your partner's body, and after six months of taking it, the drug can help make even unprotected sex safe. PrEP is a preventative drug that reduces your risk of getting HIV by 99%. These medications help make it possible for HIV-positive partners to have sex with no chance of transmitting HIV to their partner. If you are serious about being with this person, the best thing you can do is stay calm, play it safe, and be open with communication. Talk to your partner and your doctor about both of your options, so you can let go of the stigma and stress surrounding HIV and just enjoy being together.
Rest assured, a successful relationship and future with this person is possible, but their virus is not what determines that. Just like any relationship, it boils down to listening, communication, respect, and love. At the end of the day, you both deserve a relationship that is not defined by your health status but rather by your feelings for each other.