After telling his partner he was positive, Richard says he felt like he was starting his relationship again.
We’ve been in a relationship for nine months. Before this we knew each other for about a year and a half, just chatting online. He didn’t know my HIV status.
I hadn’t had a relationship for almost two years because of HIV. I disclosed my status one month after being together. I wasn’t necessarily keeping it from him. At the beginning I didn’t think he needed to know because we didn’t take any risks. I also didn’t think we would end up in a relationship.
Disclosure is a private thing. You don’t go around telling everyone you’re HIV positive. The way you do it is very important and very personal. Confidence is important. This has an impact on how the other person receives your disclosure. If you leave an opportunity to be judged, people will judge you. I had to feel comfortable that he was going to be able to deal with it.
When you disclose you’ve got to get to a point where you trust the person. Also, find out how much they know about HIV so you can have information to give them if needed. I didn’t realise until I told him that he didn’t understand the basics of HIV.
It took Patrick some time to realise I’m still me, nothing had changed. After the disclosure the challenge was starting the relationship again. It was like meeting a new person. It’s very hard because you’ve got to trust each other. He’s got to trust me again.
“Disclosure is a private thing. You don’t go around telling everyone you’re HIV positive. You’ve got to manage it the right way.”
With more understanding of HIV it’s got to a point where we are more relaxed. He wanted to hear the facts about what is and isn’t safe so we looked for information together. Once he got the facts (rather than what was going on in his head) we took it one step at a time.
It took time for the relationship to build. We talked about HIV in our relationship to the point where Patrick was comfortable with it. We talked through our fears. HIV was a big issue at the start, but its slowly fading into the background.
Learning about sex
As far as the sexual side of it, I’m still learning because I haven’t had a lot of sex with guys since my diagnosis. Basically it took about three weeks to get him back and then it took two or three months to have any type of sex. Sex is a bit more planned rather than spontaneous.
It’s more pleasurable and intimate now – it’s brought us together. In the past I’ve had sex with guys and it has just been sex. When you’re with someone (positive or negative) you really care about its more passionate.
I took Patrick to one of my doctor’s appointments mainly for reassurance. We also wanted to find out more about viral load. He has patients who have made a decision, once the viral load is undetectable, not to use condoms. A low viral load would decrease our anxiety about passing on or getting HIV, but not in a way that changes how we have sex. We would still use condoms.
Sex happens – setting some rules
Building trust, honesty and setting some rules together are the keys to any relationship. It’s about communicating from the beginning some relationship rules – getting a few things out in the open. Of course these may change over time, as our relationship grows and our needs change.
It’s a monogamous relationship. However, if he meets a guy at a beat and has sex, just tell me. If it happened to me I’d tell him. You can get into situations where sex happens. I completely get it – I’m a gay guy too. It’s not something I’d necessarily be happy with, but we need to be honest about it. We have spoken about this and come to an agreement. If our relationship goes down this path, it’s condoms with everyone.
Each relationship will have different rules. It would be good to speak to other couples about how they negotiate their rules? How they deal with HIV and sex? We’re not the only ones going through this.
HIV brings you together and makes your relationship stronger. By showing pos-neg relationships happen we take away the stigma.
On the next page: Ten tips for telling him you’re positive.