Whether you've recently been diagnosed with HIV or you know you've had it for years, being HIV positive is challenging. Unfortunately, you can't change the past, and now you have a virus that your body can't get rid of. The struggle is real, and you're probably thinking about what to do.
Yes, therapy is a great place to start. Various medications can keep HIV under control and enable you to live a happy life. Viral load can be so low that HIV becomes untraceable on tests. Here's another thing to consider—you should talk about HIV with your potential partner. With many STDs and STIs out there, it's essential to let your partner know that they must protect themselves. Here's how you can start the talk.
As if the positive results weren't enough, now you have to think about sharing them with someone else. If you still haven't had sex with your partner, maybe it's better to wait for a while and make sure you're ready to say the words before becoming intimate. You already know that HIV is now a part of your life, but you must be aware that it's not the end of the world. You can live a normal life if you take your meds regularly, and medicine is continuously progressing in many areas. Don't put pressure on yourself and speed things up unless your partner wants something more.
Another thing you should know about disclosing your HIV status is the laws of the state you're in. Many states have laws by which you're obligated to disclose your status to your potential partners. People have also been prosecuted under general criminal laws in states where you don't need to disclose your status. Additionally, be aware that your viral load or the use of protection doesn't free you from the obligation of disclosing. It all depends on the state you're in. While this may be an added pressure, your potential partner might take you more seriously if you mention your legal obligation.
You probably know the words "we need to talk." Be careful how you use them. Don't just randomly send a message during the day, scheduling the talk for the evening. Your potential partner might think something more serious has happened and freak out. By the time evening comes, you'll end up with a nervous person beside you, just wanting to know what the problem is. Put yourself in their shoes and think about how you'd like to be told about it.
When you finally say the words, consider how your potential partner is feeling. Whether or not you had sex, hearing that someone has HIV can be difficult. Make sure they know that it was also hard for you to share. Don't speed things up, and let them take everything in. They might feel a range of emotions but know that this is normal. If they care about you, they'll probably want to ask questions. Get ready to battle the HIV stigma.
Considering your diagnosis, you should be able to answer any questions. Remember what you wanted to know when you first heard the news, and consider revisiting everything your doctor told you. Your partner will probably want to know more about the types of medication out there, your viral load, prevention strategies such as PrEP, but most importantly, how you got it.
Keep in mind that there's no shame in making mistakes, and if you had unprotected sex when you caught a virus, let your potential partner know that you won't let them make the same mistake. Show that you care about them and understand the fear that comes with being intimate with someone who's HIV positive. Assure your partner that you keep track of the virus in your body and do your best to remain healthy.
If your potential partner decided to walk away, don't feel bad. They just weren't able to handle the situation. Let the time pass and focus on feeling better. If your partner decided to stay—congrats! Now both of you can move on to discussing protection and testing. You're probably taking medication to keep your viral load low, and chances are you won't transmit HIV to them. Still, having multiple options for protection is great. You're on your medication, you can use condoms, decide on oral sex, and your partner can take PrEP. In case you had unprotected sex within the last 72 hours, PEP is a better option.
Combining prevention methods is great, but no method is 100% effective. If your partner wants to get tested for HIV, make sure to be there with them if they need you. You've had that experience already; you know how stressful it can be, so get ready to show full support.
Now that your partner knows you're HIV positive, you might as well plan out what you will do if you stay together. Show that you want to stay in good health by finding a great health care team. Your team will work with you and possibly your partner, keep you healthy and safe by determining what HIV medicines are best for you, help you reach out to other providers who can address your needs, manage your treatment, and run tests to check your health.
Do everything you can to maintain a healthy mind and body. HIV might affect your nervous system and alter your behavior. You might even suffer from HIV depression. Learn how to recognize changes within you and listen to your partner if they say you're behaving differently. Talk with your partner about a healthy diet, exercise, and spending more time together.
Being diagnosed with HIV is a tough thing to handle, but it's not the end of your world. HIV shouldn't stop you from enjoying your life. If you have someone who you believe might be your soul mate, you'll eventually have to discuss your diagnosis. Wait until you're ready to share, and don't judge your partner's actions. Hearing that someone has HIV can be shocking. Be prepared to answer various questions, and show support if your partner wants to get tested to remove doubts.
Work together to stay together. Show motivation to keep your partner and yourself healthy, and you'll earn their trust. There are many options available today so that you both can enjoy a somewhat healthy relationship. Whatever you don't know, you can now learn together, and who knows, maybe one day, you get to have a medication that will destroy the virus in your body for good.
Cover photo by freepik
Based on what other women are reading
Tatyannah King, Apr 10 2020