My partner has HIV, can we have sex?
24 May 2023
Sex in a relationship can, and should, be amazing. But if your partner has HIV you might feel worried about what you can and can’t do. The good news is that there are lots of ways to protect yourself and still have great sex!
If you are dating someone with HIV you might be worried that having sex with them will put your health at risk.
But you can have great sex with your partner and stay HIV-negative. You just have to know how.
Here are answers to some of the burning questions you might have if your partner has HIV.
How do I protect myself?
Condoms are one of the best ways to stop HIV being passed on through sex (anal or vaginal). They will also protect you both from other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and prevent pregnancy. What’s not to love?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) will lower your risk of getting HIV to almost zero. It normally comes in a pill (although PrEP injections and vaginal rings are becoming available too). You need to take PrEP pills every day for them work. It isn’t available everywhere, but your healthcare provider can tell you if you can get it. PrEP doesn’t protect against STIs or pregnancy though. Only condoms can do that.
If your partner is on HIV treatment and takes it properly it will make the amount of HIV in their body so low that it will be undetectable in normal blood tests. If they are undetectable they can’t pass on HIV, which means HIV is untransmittable. That’s called U=U which stands for undectable equals untransmittable.
For this to work they have to take their treatment all the time. And they need to have regular viral load check-ups to make sure their treatment is still working.
What if my partner doesn’t want to discuss HIV prevention?
Talking about sex can be tricky. And if your partner has HIV they might have feelings about it that are difficult for them to speak about.
Try to be understanding. When the moment feels right tell them how you are feeling. If you want to have sex with them explain why. It might be nice for them to hear this! If they are ready to talk, discuss with them the options available.
If your partner does not know about U=U, telling them about it is one of the best things you can do for them. If they have HIV it’s really important they are on treatment to stay healthy.
And if they keep refusing to talk about HIV prevention, or they want to have sex but don’t want to use anything, it might be time to ask whether this relationship is right for you. Good relationships are about seeing your partner’s point of view. If they can’t, are they really worthy of being your partner?
Consent is the bedrock of any healthy sexual relationship and no one should ever be forced or pressured into having sex that causes them concern and with which they are not comfortable with.
What if my partner says no to sex because they are worried about giving me HIV?
If your partner is worried they clearly care about you. Do the caring thing in return by letting them know they deserve to have a fulfilling sex life if they want to – having HIV shouldn’t stop them. Talk them through the different options, and work out together which one is right for you as a couple.
What if we want to have a baby?
Go for it! If you want to get pregnant with a partner who has HIV, taking PrEP or them being undetectable means you can stay HIV negative but still conceive. And if your partner is a woman with HIV, you can find out here how they can give birth to a healthy HIV-negative baby.
Let's talk about having sex when your partner has 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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