If you are in a relationship, telling him that you have HIV may well be near the forefront of your mind. There are very good reasons for informing your partner, not least that you will probably want and need support from him in dealing with HIV.

If your partner does not have HIV, then you could potentially pass it on to him. It will be easier to ensure that you don’t pass HIV on to him if you are both aware that HIV is now part of your relationship, and if you both share the responsibility for keeping him HIV negative. If you are on treatment and the treatment is working for you, your viral load can be supressed to undetectable levels. This means that you are very unlikely to transmit the virus to your sexual partner. To do this on your own is really difficult. You may have had unprotected sex with your partner, in which case you might have given him HIV. It’s also possible that he doesn’t know he has HIV and he actually infected you. Either way, if your partner has HIV and doesn’t know it, getting his HIV diagnosed will enable him to get regular health check-ups and access treatments if he needs them.

There is no guarantee that your relationship will be strong enough to survive the news that you have HIV, but many are. In fact, gay men with HIV are just as likely to be in a relationship as men without HIV, and are more likely to have been in that relationship for longer than men without HIV. A strategy of withholding the information about your HIV status from your partner is unlikely to work in the long term. Not discussing such an important issue could drive a wedge between you and hiding your clinic appointments, ill-health or medication if you need it, could become impossible and detrimental to your health.

If you recently met your partner but didn’t talk about HIV with him before you had sex, you will probably find it increasingly difficult as your relationship starts to develop. There is never a good time, nor an easy way to inform your partner that you have HIV. However, informing him that you have HIV and that you’ve chosen not to tell him for a while is likely to make him feel angry or resentful towards you at a time when you may need support from him. What’s more, if it is possible you have exposed him to HIV during this time, and you haven't told him your status, his resentment towards you will probably increase. If you disclose your HIV status soon after diagnosis, everything you do together will be done with informed consent.

Be aware that your partner may also need support. Your HIV status will affect both of you. If you have friends in common who you believe would be supportive, it’s probably a good idea for both of you to disclose to them. This will enable your partner to get support from your friends knowing that he has your permission to talk things over. Don’t get worried if he feels the need to have some conversations without you. If there are people, mutual friends or friends of his, that you specifically don’t want to be told, let your partner know this. For more help with these issues, you can speak to a health adviser at your clinic or contact THT Direct for details of other counselling services on 0808 802 1221.

Another important aspect to consider is the legal implication of not telling your partner. In the UK there have been criminal prosecutions of people for ‘recklessly’ passing HIV on to their sexual partners. If you didn’t tell him you have HIV and then passed HIV onto him you could be in trouble with the law.1 You can read more about this in the section on HIV transmission and the law.

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References
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1 HIV transmission and the criminal law NAMLIFE (www.namlife.org.uk)