Relationships, good social support network, peer support.
These can be important in maintaining self-esteem and self-confidence, particularly when newly diagnosed with HIV. Relationships cover a range of issues like affection, intimacy, support, having someone to care about, and somebody who cares about you.
Relationships may vary greatly: for some men, they may mean:
- long-term intimate relationships with only one person;
- loving relationships with one partner and sexual activity with others;
- a series of casual sexual relationships with different people.
Regardless of HIV status, relationships have their challenges, but can also be very rewarding. For some men, the HIV status of their partner is unimportant; for others, it can be a very important factor. For some couples it can feel as if there are three of you in the relationship – You, him, and HIV.
If you are in a relationship when you receive a HIV positive diagnosis, don’t assume that your partner might also be HIV positive. The only way to know for sure is if your partner gets tested.
A relationship where one person is HIV positive and the other is HIV negative (sometimes referred to as a sero-discordant relationship) has its own set of challenges and anxieties. Initially, there may be the issue of disclosing (telling the other person you are HIV positive). This may bring up a number of concerns for you both. The fear of transmitting HIV is a concern for some. You may need to renegotiate your relationship boundaries in relation to the types of sex you both want and enjoy. You should both be aware of post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and the benefits of being undetectable.
Some men living with HIV find that by having a HIV positive sexual partner they have a less anxious sex life. You may choose not to use condoms because you enjoy the intimacy of condomless sex. This brings its own challenges, including possible health implications.
Anonymous or casual sex is a significant part of the lives of many men who have sex with men. If you enjoy casual sex with someone you don’t know it might be useful to discuss and agree on sexual boundaries before you engage in sexual activity.
Whatever relationship you desire; it is important that decisions made about future relationships are not based on HIV alone. How you feel, if it works for you, and if it’s what you want and enjoy, are all better reasons for making decisions.