The LGBT Health & Development Program

Youth Blog – How to Communicate about Sexual Health with an HIV-Positive Partner

Posted on October 13th, 2016 by Brian F. in Featured, Life & HIV, Youth Blog. No Comments

A photo of two white men kissing outside with a body of water and some buildings in the background.

Image credit: Andrea, “Love,” August, 2009.

It’s possible to have sex with someone who is HIV-positive and stay HIV-negative. You just have to make sure to ask the right questions and take the right precautions.

Imagine: You meet someone who you’re attracted to and you want to have sex with them. You ask if they know their HIV-status and they tell you they’re HIV-positive. You’re still interested, but you start to worry… How can I have sex with them and keep myself safe? What do I need to know?

Being able to communicate about sexual health is critical to having a safe and fulfilling relationship with any partner, but it can be especially hard to start a conversation about a sensitive topic like HIV. Here are three tips for starting the conversation:

  1. Normalize it! Let them know it’s important for you to have an honest conversation about health in order to feel comfortable having sex.
  2. Emphasize why you want to have the conversation. Your partner may be more comfortable answering personal questions if they know it’s because you’re attracted to them and you want to feel comfortable enough to have sex.
  3. Make it a two-way street. Ask if they have questions for you.

So you’re ready to start the conversation, but you’re still wondering… What should I ask? Here is a list of questions to get you started.

“Are you taking HIV medication?”

HIV medications (called antiretrovirals) reduce (but do not eliminate) the chances that your partner will transmit HIV to you (click here to learn more).

“Is your viral load (VL) undetectable?”

VL refers to the amount of HIV in the body. It can be reduced by taking medication. If their VL is undetectable, then the chances of them transmitting HIV to you are reduced (but again not eliminated). VL can change though, so just because it’s undetectable at one time, doesn’t mean it will always be undetectable.

“Do you ever miss doses of your medication?”

Missing doses can affect VL, so it’s important that your partner take their medication as prescribed and continue getting their VL checked. If they miss doses sometimes, you can ask if you can support them by helping them remember.

“Is your strain of HIV resistant to any medications?”

This is important if you are on PrEP or interested in taking it. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) refers to daily medication that an HIV-negative person can take to reduce their chances of acquiring HIV (click here to learn more). The medication Truvada is used as PrEP. Although Truvada is extremely effective, in some rare cases HIV is resistant to Truvada. It’s important to ask your partner if they knows if their HIV is resistant to any medications.

While there’s no such thing as 100% safe sex, communicating about sexual health with your partner is a key step toward being as safe as possible (click here to learn more about keeping yourself safe)! For additional tips on how to have sex with someone who is HIV-positive and stay HIV-negative, click here!


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Medical Information Disclaimer: The IMPACT Program does not intend to provide specific medical advice, but we may provide website visitors with information to better understand their health and risk factors for specific diseases. The IMPACT Program urges you to consult with a qualified health care provider for diagnosis and answers to your personal health questions.

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