If you have HIV then you should know that it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to find someone who loves you. The World Health Organization estimates that up to half of all people diagnosed with HIV manage to maintain healthy and loving relationships with HIV-negative partners. If you find out your girlfriend has HIV, here are some things you should know – and some ways to protect yourself.
How is HIV Transmitted?
One reason there is so much stigma around HIV is that people misunderstand how it is transmitted. It is passed through semen, vaginal fluids, and blood. HIV can also enter the body through cuts on skin and in the mouth. It can also be transmitted through;
- Having unprotected anal/vaginal sex (75% chance) or unprotected oral sex (3-7% chance)
- Receiving a blood transfusion from an HIV-positive person
- Sharing needles with someone with HIV
- Perinatal (vertical) route
Unprotected sex remains the most common way of contracting HIV, but wearing a condom during sex drastically decreases the risk. It’s possible for a nursing mother to infect their baby through their breast milk, but medication significantly reduces this risk.
How to Tell if you Have HIV
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to be tested. While you might experience some of the symptoms of HIV, testing remains the only way to know for sure. There are even some people who have HIV for years without realizing it because they don’t experience any symptoms. If you’re worried that your partner may have infected you then you should get tested even if you don’t have any symptoms. There are a few different tests available for HIV, including;
- Antibody screening test
- Antibody/antigen combination test
- RNA test
- Home testing kits
How to Protect Yourself
The best ways to protect yourself from catching HIV are to practice safe sex or abstinence. Obviously, abstinence isn’t something you can do in a loving relationship. Being faithful to your partner is another way to reduce the chances of catching the disease, as it reduces your exposure to it. Condoms remain the most effective way to prevent yourself from getting HIV. They are effective when used properly, so make sure to get ones that are the right size. Also make sure that you use a different condom every time you have intercourse, and put a condom on before any kind of sexual contact with your partner.
How to Help your HIV Positive Partner
There are lots of things you can do to make things easier on your partner if they have HIV, including:
Listen to Them
If someone tells you that they have HIV, make sure that you listen to them and be supportive. Having HIV isn’t a death sentence. There are lots of effective drugs out there to treat HIV. They keep your partner healthy and reduce the risk of you being infected yourself.
Learn more about HIV. Learn what it is, how it is transmitted, the symptoms of having HIV, and how it can be treated. Find out how to keep your partner happy and healthy and how to protect yourself and prevent infection.
You should encourage your partner when they tell you about their HIV. This includes encouraging them to seek treatment if they haven’t already. The earlier that HIV is treated, the less risk of the infected person developing an infection. This reduces their risk of developing AIDS and helps them stay healthy in the long-term.
Make Sure they Take their Medications
Given that HIV attacks the immune system, it makes it hard for the body to properly fight infections. Make sure that your partner keeps up with their medication regimen and that they eat a balanced, healthy diet.
There’s a lot of support out there for people with HIV and their partners. Talk to your friends and family too. Share your thoughts and concerns about your partner and their disease. Talk to your physician if you have any questions about it. Get all the support that you need to stay physically, mentally, and emotionally healthy.
HIV Isn’t the End
It’s important to remember that HIV isn’t the end. It’s not the end of a relationship, and it’s not the end of a life. Many couples have stayed together for decades after an HIV diagnosis. It is possible to live and love life to the fullest when you – or your partner – has HIV.