“I just know that if it comes out positive I’m going to be alone and lonely for the rest of my life.”
As I looked at the young man across from me who spoke those words as he waited for the results of his HIV test, I realized how many times I’d heard that same sentiment – both from persons waiting for their results and from clients that found out their HIV+ status some time ago. The fear of being lonely and alone is one that most individuals can relate to. In the search for a relationship and working on improving a relationship, there are always barriers and issues to work on and through. HIV is just one of those barriers. But, you know what the most important thing about barriers is? They can be overcome.
In all relationships, communication and knowing your partner are the key factors in overcoming barriers. Talking about finances, decisions with children, education choices, health choices and all sorts of other life events and factors is immensely important and should be a part of all healthy relationships.
As antiretroviral medicines have increased in effectiveness over the years, HIV+ individuals are living long and healthy lives. As health increases, so does the number of healthy serodiscordant relationships. Serodiscordant relationships are those where one partner is HIV+ and the other is HIV-. The term serodiscordant originates from the word “seroconversion”, which is the medical term for becoming HIV positive, and the word “discordant”, which means “at odds”. These relationships have been able to survive for years with the HIV- person maintaining that status. Individuals remaining adherent to medication and maintaining undetectable viral loads have a much, much lower chance of transmitting the virus to a partner. So, when you’re getting involved with a partner who has disclosed their HIV+ status, ask them about their viral load. Ask them about their medication adherence. Those are the keys. Ask. Communicate.
In any relationship, there are many, many things to discuss. Specifics to discuss in a relationship are as unique as each relationship itself; however, there are some commonalities in all relationships. We all need to discuss our emotional health in a relationship – talk about our fears of loss and grief if something happens to one of the partners. We all need to discuss sex – what are both partners comfortable with? How do we keep safe? Ask. Communicate.
Fears of being lonely and alone are natural and experienced my most individuals; fear of being lonely and alone solely because of your HIV status? That’s the one that shouldn’t need to exist. All individuals deserve respect and love and to find that person that makes them happy. People fall in love with an individual, not a health status. HIV is just that, a health status, a barrier that can be overcome. Know your partner, communicate with your partner; those are the keys to any relationship.
Related post: Sero-discordant coupling: Looking after each other in a Pos-Neg relationships.