Dealing With The Truth
Suddenly finding out that a partner has human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) can be a startling experience. This information can be complicated if the couple has already started a sexual relationship. This new information can make anyone feel uncomfortable and confused. Despite the progress in HIV treatment and declining cases, there is still a degree of stigma, and many people do not know how to respond. As a result, some couples may break up. This is a consequence that both parties should expect. However, others may continue a serodiscordant relationship and try to overcome this obstacle together. For those in the same boat, here are some pointers on how to best deal with the situation:
Be supportive and informed
As a partner, the most important thing to do is to support the other person and be a source of comfort during this difficult time. There must be a high level of trust and love if a partner discloses the information upfront. Empathize with the situation and provide support as best as possible. At the same time, be honest regarding any concerns about being in a relationship with an HIV+ person. Chances are, the individual may be already aware of the diagnosis and taking the necessary treatment. However, if the diagnosis is new, offer support when seeking the appropriate treatment to help prevent further spread of the virus. The next step is to get informed about the disease and understand the latest developments in HIV treatment and prevention.
If you had sex, get tested
After receiving this news, concern levels can skyrocket if there’s been unprotected sex with a person who has HIV. Getting tested immediately is crucial. Even if there are no symptoms, the risk of getting infected remains. Both parties should go together to get tested at a medical facility. The best time to get tested is within 2 weeks of possible exposure. Getting tested sooner can help detect the infection early and provide quicker treatment. Talk with a doctor about the best testing method based on the situation and get tested for HIV as soon as possible.
If the couple decides to move forward, taking precautions is vital to ensure the other will not get infected. In case of sexual intercourse, use a new condom every time to prevent the spread of HIV. Ask a doctor about taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to reduce the chances of HIV infection. PrEP boosts the antibodies that fight HIV, reducing the risk of getting infected from sex by 99% when taken as prescribed. Some people take PrEP on demand, meaning immediately before or after sex. However, serodiscordant couples may benefit from indefinite use of the drug. Until there is a low viral load or minimal risk of infection, minimize activities that can transfer bodily fluids.
Your next steps
If a person in the relationship discloses an HIV+ status to the other, the relationship will undoubtedly take a different course. The couple either grows toward partnership, breaks up, or something else in between. That decision is up to the couple involved. However, being open and honest as soon as possible can help. The relationship needs to be mutually supportive and respectful, regardless of the status of the partners involved. Take the necessary steps to ensure a healthy status for both partners.