How to be supportive to your HIV positive partner
Being in a relationship with someone who is HIV-positive, also known as being a discordant couple, has its challenges. However, there are ways that you can be supportive towards your HIV-positive partner. Here’s more.
Have honest HIV related conversations
Open and honest conversations are necessary for a healthy, happy and lasting relationship. Have honest conversations about HIV with your partner and find out how it affects them, and what you can do to make their experience easier. Feel free to share how you have been affected as well. Maintaining open and non-judgemental communication can help you understand your partner’s experience better, which can bring you closer. When you go through challenges, get counselling together. You can visit the Lifeline website to find a centre near you.
Offer disclosure support
If your partner would like to disclose their status to family and/or friends, offer them your support. Remember, there’s no pressure for them to disclose their status if they are not ready – so don’t rush or pressurise them in any way.
Get tested for HIV frequently
It’s important that you get tested often for HIV, even if you are having safe sex. You and your partner need to make sure that you are staying healthy by getting tested for HIV and getting screened for any other STIs.
Get involved in your partner’s health regimen
Living with any chronic condition, like HIV, can be very lonely at times. Support your partner by taking an interest in their health regimen and finding out what their day to day life looks like. This will give you a clue of what sort of precautions they have to take when it comes to their health.
Encourage your partner to take their ARVs daily, without policing them (remember, you are their partner, not coach). Join them in eating healthy and keeping fit and make a habit of getting screened for STIs together. Try not to pressure your partner into telling you things about their doctor’s appointments if they are not ready, remember that they have a right to privacy, just like anyone else.
Practice safe sex
Practice safe sex all the time. Whether you are HIV-positive or negative, it’s absolutely important to use a condom during sex to avoid getting infected with STIs and experiencing unplanned pregnancy. You want to keep yourself and your partner as healthy as possible and practicing safe sex helps you do just that.
Be faithful to one partner
Like any other couple in a committed relationship, it’s important to stay faithful. Having multiple sexual partners at the same time doesn’t just affect the relationship negatively, it also increases your chances of getting infected with HIV and other STIs. Have conversations with your partner about staying faithful and taking care of your health.
Learn more about HIV
Whether you are HIV-positive or HIV-negative, it’s absolutely essential to be educated about the virus. New discoveries are made all the time, and in order to be supportive of our infected and affected loved ones, it’s good to stay informed.
One way to stay informed is to find out about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), which is a treatment that helps HIV-negative people reduce their risk of getting infected with HIV. Consult your health care professional about PrEP to find out if you are a suitable candidate for it.
Take care of yourself
An important part of supporting your HIV positive partner is taking care of yourself. It’s easy to put all your energy and focus on your partner’s well-being and completely neglect your own. Make sure that you fit in time for self-care activities every now and then and focus on your own needs. You can only be a good support system for someone if you take care of yourself and put your happiness first.
We know that HIV is a manageable condition and we can build healthy lives and relationships, even if one or both partners are living with the virus. That’s why it’s important to have conversations, take care of our own mental and physical health, and stay informed in order to be a positive support system for partners living with HIV. If you need help doing this, contact the National Aids Helpline on 0800 012 322, or check out organisations like HIV Support for info on support groups.
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