Having a partner who is HIV positive can raise a lot of questions on how to behave in the relationship and how to go about making love without contracting the virus.
Health experts share advice on questions you might have when you are dating someone who is HIV positive.
HOW TO AVOID CONTRACTING HIV AS WELL
Contracting HIV doesn’t mean it is the end of the world. Never make your partner feel isolated by reminding them of their status all the time. Treat them the way you would like to be treated. It is also advisable to see a doctor together before your relationship becomes sexual.
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“You can have sex with your HIV positive partner but you need to make sure that you protect yourselves by wearing a condom. If the condom tears, you need to stop immediately. Go for a blood test at your nearest clinic or doctor and take Pre-exposure prophylaxispills (PreEP). These pills should be used only in emergency situations and must be used within 72 hours after recent exposure to HIV,” says an HIV management specialist from Tsolo in the Eastern Cape, Doctor Nobuhle Mbulawa.
The sooner you start PreEP, the better as every hour counts. You’ll need to take the pills once or twice daily for 28 days. Since PreEP is not 100 percent effective, you should continue to use condoms while having sex. This will help protect you from being exposed to HIV and reduce the chances of transmitting the virus to others.
Doctor Mbulawa emphasises the importance of testing for HIV together with your partner. “It is important for both partners to know their HIV status so that they know how to handle the relationship,” says Doctor Mbulawa.
“Having an HIV positive partner doesn’t mean that you are signing a death certificate. You can still live a healthy life as long as you follow the necessary precautions,” adds the doctor.
She says transmission is generally done through body fluids such as:
¦ Vaginal fluid.
¦ Breast milk.
¦ And other body fluids that contain blood.
Avoid contact with these body fluids when you are involved with an HIV-positive partner. Women who are infected with HIV should not breastfeed, since the infant can be exposed through the mother’s milk.
Read more: ‘I’VE LIVED FOR 30 YEARS WITH HIV!’
WHAT ABOUT KISSING?
Closed-mouth kissing does not present a risk, but deep kissing (French kissing) can cause exposure if your partner’s gums are infected or bleeding. The risk is remote, but it is recommended that you avoid this type of kissing if your partner is HIV positive.
Having children is possible even when you are HIV positive. “It’s important for you to sit down with your partner and weigh your options. There are a few routes you can take in order to make sure that you don’t contract HIV from your partner during this process.
If it’s the female partner who is HIV positive, discuss your plans with your HIV healthcare provider to make sure you are on the right treatment plan and to reduce the risk of perinatal transmission,” says Doctor Asanda Lupindo, from Tsolo in the Eastern Cape.
You can explore the following options:
¦ Sperm washing: This is a technique that separates the seminal fluid from the sperm in HIV-positive men. When a woman wants to get pregnant, she is artificially inseminated with the sperm after it is washed and it is HIV free.
Sperm washing is done with the help of a centrifuge. The centrifuge is a device that spins at a high speed to separate the sperm from the seminal fluid in a given sample of semen. The sperm is then purified in a solution twice, in order to clean other unwanted substances in it, including the HIV.
¦ Artificial insemination: In artificial insemination, a doctor inserts sperm (after sperm washing if the male partner is HIV positive) directly into a woman’s cervix, fallopian tubes or uterus. The most common method is called intrauterine insemination. This is when a doctor places the sperm in the uterus to fertilise.
¦ Adoption: You could also explore the option of adopting a child that you could raise as your own as a couple. There are many children out there who need loving parents.
Read more: 5 SEX HABITS YOU NEED TO BREAK!
HOW TO SUPPORT YOUR HIV POSITIVE PARTNER
¦ Talk: Be available to have open and honest conversations about HIV. Follow the lead of the partner who is diagnosed with HIV.
¦ Listen: Being diagnosed with HIV can be life changing. Listen to your loved one and offer them your support. Reassure them that HIV is a manageable health condition.
¦ Learn: Educate yourself about HIV: what it is, how it is transmitted, how it is treated and how people can stay healthy while living with it. Having a solid understanding of HIV is a big step forward in supporting your loved one.
¦ Encourage treatment: Some people who have recently been diagnosed with HIV may find it hard to take that first step in seeking treatment. Your support and assistance may be helpful.
¦ Support medication adherence: It is important for people living with HIV to take their medication daily as prescribed. Ask your loved one what you can do to support them in establishing a medication routine and sticking to it. Also ask them what other needs they might have and how you can help them stay healthy.
¦ Get support: Take care of yourself and get support if you need it. Turn to others for any questions, concerns or anxieties that you may have so that the person who is diagnosed can focus on taking care of their own health.