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I have HIV, can I have sex?

Yes! 

Lots of people worry that being diagnosed with HIV will mean they won’t be able to have a relationship or have sex. But you can! 

There are things you can do which mean you can still have great sex without passing on HIV. 

If you take your treatment properly, you can become undetectable which means you can’t pass HIV on. Condoms and PrEP are also good ways to make sure your partner doesn’t get HIV. 

Can I have sex if I have HIV?

Yes! People with HIV can enjoy a happy, healthy and pleasurable sex life just like anyone else. Read on to find out how people can have sex and not pass HIV to their partner.  

My partner is HIV-negative. How can I stop them getting HIV?

There are now more ways than ever to stop HIV being passed on from one person to another (also called HIV transmission). You can combine as many of these methods as you want.  

Condoms 

Condoms are one of the best ways to prevent HIV as well as other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and pregnancy. Using lube reduces friction and helps to make sure that condoms don’t break.  

If you are a man, you are not going to get pregnant. However, this is a possibility if your partner is female so use a condom if she does not want to get pregnant.

Using condoms to prevent HIV

PrEP 

PrEP is an HIV prevention pill that can reduce the risk of getting HIV to almost zero. It is recommended for the HIV-negative partner. However, PrEP isn’t available everywhere, so ask your healthcare provider to see if it is an option for you. 

PrEP

Undetectable 

If you have HIV, effective treatment can reduce your viral load to such low levels that HIV can no longer be detected in normal blood tests. This is known as an undetectable viral load. If you have an undetectable viral load, you are no longer able to pass HIV on through sex. To make sure you are undetectable you need to have your viral load monitored with regular tests. 

Undetectable

How do I know my partner’s HIV status?

The only way to know is if they test for HIV. Some couples decide to go and get tested together. Once you both know your status you can make decisions together about how to stop passing on HIV. 

HIV testing

Can we have an HIV-negative baby if I have HIV?

Yes! It’s possible to safely have an HIV-negative baby together. Read our dedicated page for more information on how you can do this. 

HIV pregnancy and childbirth

My partner has HIV too. Do we need to use a condom?

If you are both positive, it’s important to still use condoms during sex. This is because you might have different strains of HIV and so could be infected with two strains. This can cause problems if one strain of HIV is resistant to certain antiretroviral drugs, making it harder for you to find treatment that works. Condoms also prevent STIs and unwanted pregnancy

I have HIV and I’m scared about having sex. What can I do?

Talk to your partner about how you feel. This can help you find ways to move through this together. You can also look for advice from HIV charities or talk to your healthcare provider.

Let's talk about having sex when you have HIV!

Here are a few questions to help kick-off discussions on the issues you need to talk about! You can share them on social, on WhatsApp or just get talking.

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What is a mixed status couple?

A mixed-status couple describes a relationship when one partner is HIV-negative and the other is HIV-positive. This is sometimes also known as a serodifferent couple or a serodiscordant couple.  

Does the HIV-positive partner have to tell the HIV-negative partner their status?

This is up to you, but if you love and care for your partner you will want to tell them so they can protect their own health. It can be hard to tell a partner that you have HIV, but there are a few things to consider.

  • If you have an undetectable viral load you can’t pass on HIV. But it is a good idea to tell your partner so that you are both informed. 

  • If you don’t have an undetectable viral load and you have unprotected sex you might pass on HIV to your partner. It’s better to tell them so they can test for HIV.  

  • In some countries you can be prosecuted for HIV transmission if you haven’t told your partner your status.  

  • Being open and honest with someone about your HIV status and your feelings can be really powerful. It can make you feel closer to the person, and they may offer you emotional and practical support when you need it. 

Sharing your status with a partner

What if my HIV-positive partner/client won’t use a condom?

If your partner or client won’t use a condom, and isn’t undetectable, you could get HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) from sex.  

If you want to have sex with them, try asking them to use a condom. This can be a very difficult thing to do – in some cultures it is especially hard for women or sex workers to ask their partner/client to use a condom. But explain why it is important and that it will protect your health. 

If they still won’t use a condom, read about taking PEP or PrEP to protect you from HIV and contraceptives to protect you from unwanted pregnancy if you are a woman who has sex with men. However, condoms are the only way to stop you getting STIs. So, think carefully about whether to have sex with them or not. 

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Next: Contraception/Family planning for people with HIV

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  • Last updated: 22 March 2022
  • Last full review: 01 March 2022
  • Next full review: 01 March 2025
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