How should I respond?
Increasingly people are being open about living with HIV, and this should be encouraged. This might be the first time you have learned that someone you’re in regular contact with has HIV. In many ways, there’s no reason why you should know, except that the individual wants to entrust you with the information. The barrier to disclosing is often the fear of how others might react so think about what it might mean for them
You may not know that HIV is no longer considered the terminal illness that it was in the 1980s. Major improvements in treatments means that in most cases HIV is now a manageable long-term condition and no longer a death sentence. If someone is diagnosed early and put on treatment it is likely they will enjoy a normal life expectancy.
If your partner has just told you they have HIV it is normal to feel surprised, scared, upset or angry. They may not want to tell anyone else so it might feel like you have no access to support. Needing support doesn’t make you a selfish person, many people have been in your position and it’s important to deal with it in your own way. There are many third sector organisations who you can speak to about how you are feeling and offer support. Use our service finder to find services near you.
Your fear, frustration and anger are all normal emotions. It might help to sit down and talk about how you are both feeling. They are probably feeling the same emotions as you and you will both need the support of each other. Relationships Scotland and other organisations can help you come to terms with your partner’s diagnosis together and help you plan for the future.
Knowing the facts about HIV is an important step in accepting the situation. You may be thinking about getting tested yourself or how best to protect yourself. Click here for more information.
Sex with your partner
You might be feeling anxious about having sex with your partner knowing they are HIV positive – this is totally natural and not uncommon. Recent research suggests that people living with HIV should start treatment as soon as possible. This is beneficial for their health and reduces viral load to undetectable levels. Once positive people have an undetectable viral load, it becomes virtually impossible for them to transmit the virus. Until your partner has an undetectable viral load, you will need to practice safe sex.
Your Friend or Family member
If a friend or family member has just told you they are HIV positive it is a sign that they trust you. It’s important to keep this information confidential unless they tell you otherwise. Remember that they might feel alone, frightened and isolated and they may be relying on you for support. However this doesn’t mean that you won’t need support yourself. They may have been living with HIV for a long time before they tell you. If you find out much later than anyone else that a loved one has HIV, try to understand how difficult it can be to tell a parent, sibling or child. It can be hard to find the right time and place or the right words. Use our service finder to find support networks for you and your loved one.
You may be worried about the risks of HIV and how to protect yourself. You cannot get HIV from: kissing, hugging, massage, any non-sexual physical contact, sharing cutlery, drinking from the same glass or sharing food, or from contact with surfaces such as toilet seat. Click here for more information.
Your support as a family member is important – and this works both ways.