Relationships

A person's HIV status is private. It is your right to choose whether to tell someone (or 'disclose') that you have HIV. However, there are some situations where you are legally required to share your status - mainly to do specific professions, getting certain types of insurance and obtaining visas for some countries.

People living with HIV are entitled to an active, healthy sex life. You do not have to tell a sexual partner that you have HIV, as long as you take appropriate precautions to prevent sexually transmitting HIV.

Nonetheless, living with HIV every day can make you feel differently about yourself and about your relationships. Sorting out your feelings can take time after you’ve been diagnosed.

This will be true for your partner too. You will both have strong feelings about how you’re affected as individuals and as a couple. This is true whether your partner is HIV positive or not.

Dealing with reactions

The reactions of partners or sexual contacts can vary from acceptance to rejection, and can either bring you closer or create a distance. It’s important to work out how and when to talk to your partner, and to have an idea of how to deal with their reactions.

Remember:

  • If you are anxious about telling your partner, friends or family, you might want to consider speaking to someone else living with HIV. More information here.
  • Many people with HIV are in a strong and loving relationship
  • Relationships grow and change for all of us, including for people with HIV
  • It’s OK not to be in a relationship, but at some point you might meet someone who's right for you

Children

If you have children, their interests will be close to your heart. Think about how much they should and need to know to help them understand what’s happening.

Some positive people choose to tell their children and others don't - choose what is right for you. You may find speaking to other positive parents beneficial.

Anxieties

Once you've been on treatment and you have an undetectable viral load, the chances of passing on the virus to your sexual partner(s) is minimal.

Nonetheless, the thought of telling a sexual partner may make you feel anxious, but there could be advantages to being open about your HIV status with them. It might make you feel more relaxed, less inhibited and it could bring you closer together. If you have any doubts, speaking with an HIV healthcare worker or peer supporter can be really helpful in planning how to tell partners your HIV status.

If you’ve been diagnosed with HIV you may want to tell previous sexual partners so that they can get tested too. If you do not feel able to tell them yourself, a sexual health clinic can help and even do this for you without mentioning your name.

Talking points

  • If your partner’s last test was negative or they have never been tested, they should seriously consider getting tested.
  • Does your partner want you to go with them for the test and for the results?
  • Does this change what you like doing together, sexually or otherwise?
  • How does this affect others in your family or circle of friends, and what should you do about it?

With a new relationship, some of the same feelings and discussions will emerge.

If you’re finding it difficult to have sex, or to use condoms while having sex, talk about it. Support for both partners is available at your clinic. If you need specialist support and help, ask at your clinic which can provide this for you or refer you to an appropriate service.

Starting a family

All women have the right to make their own choices about fertility and childbirth. Your HIV status does not change that. You have a right to the same level of support from doctors and healthcare workers.

Find out more