The awkward love triangle : You, your partner, and HIV

People living with HIV are just like everybody else when it comes to relationships.

Most days they love each other.

talking to your partner about HIV

Sometimes they stop talking all day because they disagree deeply on momentous issues (like, you know, who gets to control the TV remote).

talking to your partner about HIV

They get mad, they break up.

talking to your partner about HIV

They get back together again,

talking to your partner about HIV

they break up again.

talking to your partner about HIV

They stay broke up, they start hooking up again, they start a new relationship. Some get married. A few get divorced.

talking to your partner about HIV

None of this has anything to do with HIV. It’s just life going on.

The first rule of relationships and HIV is that both people need to know each other’s HIV status. Some relationships fall apart when one partner finds out the other is HIV positive. But then again, some relationships fall apart over TV remotes.

Why Experts Say Couples Should Get Tested Together

talking to your partner about HIV

The World Health Organization (WHO), which helps people with HIV around the planet, recommends that couples get HIV testing and counseling together. That way both partners know exactly what is going on. If one partner tests positive, the other partner knows right away.

There’s no reason to fear HIV testing, especially if you’re in a deep, loving relationship. When you really care about somebody, you want to help them stay healthy, and they want the same for you.

What Happens if We Both Test Negative?

talking to your partner about HIV

For starters, plan to get retested again in three months to confirm the results. If either of you have sex partners outside your relationship, you should get tested every three to six months anyway.

You still need to practice safer sex if there is any chance either of you will engage in risky behaviors outside your relationship. That means condom use at all times and avoiding injected drugs no matter how tempting.

What Happens if We Both Test Positive?

talking to your partner about HIV

If you both test positive, then you both have a chance to deepen your commitment by helping each other stay healthy.  Couples often attend clinic visits together, motivate each other to live a healthier life-style and remind each other when it’s time for a dose of meds.

What Happens if Only One of Us Tests Positive?

talking to your partner about HIV

Before you get tested, you might want to sit down and work out a game plan for what you’ll do if one of you tests positive. Be honest, but try not to be judgmental (this might be the hardest part, but it’s worth it for somebody you really care about).

If you’re the partner who tests positive for HIV, make an extra effort to find out about all the medication options for your negative partner. If you’re partner tests positive, commit yourself to helping them stay on their medications.

Ask your doctor or counselor for specifics on healthy sex when only one partner is HIV-positive. There are ways to be intimate with very low risk of transmission.

Ask Your Doctor About PrEP and PEP

PrEP means “pre-exposure prophylaxis.” It’s treatment pill that’s taken daily to dramatically reduce the chance of getting infected by HIV.

PEP means “post-exposure prophylaxis.” It can reduce the chance of getting infected within 72 hours after an exposure to HIV.    

HIV is just another health issue for couples to work out together. You may never agree on who controls the TV remote, but you can always agree to help each other stay healthy.


Positive Peers is made possible through a U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration, HIV/AIDS Bureau Special Projects of National Significance (SPNS) Grant to The MetroHealth System. Click here for more information about the SPNS grant initiative.
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