When one partner is negative
Many HIV-negative men and women have relationships with HIV-positive people. The technical term for this is a serodiscordant relationship. Some people talk about ‘pozneg’ or ‘magnetic’ couples.
There are many such couples enjoying successful long-term relationships. The person without HIV can stay negative, and both partners can enjoy all the things other couples do – including having sex.
There are, however, particular challenges that crop up. Pozhet’s resource Life, Loving and HIV covers some of these issues, including:
- Up to date information about treatments and reducing transmission *(More recent studies show that people with an undetectable viral load do not transmit HIV)
- Telling other people
- Keeping sex fun and safe
- Communicating effectively and supporting each other
- The real experiences of people in serodiscordant relationships
You can still have a healthy sex life with HIV. It’s important to be well informed and to find out all you can about HIV and how to reduce the chance of passing it on to your partner.
Research has shown that when a person is taking HIV treatment as prescribed, their viral load has been undetectable for six months and they have no untreated STIs, there is very little chance of passing the virus on to others during sex. *Recent research shows no transmission of HIV from a person with a consistently undetectable viral load. See ‘Treatment and Prevention’ on the Treatments page.
‘I often tell a partner they will be safer with me than with anyone else.’ Jenny
‘It’s just as important for me to say what I like sexually as it is to let him know I’m HIV positive.’ Saria
If you’re worried about being exposed to HIV, call the 24-hour Post Exposure Prophylaxis (PEP) hotline on 1800 737 669. PEP is a course of medication that can prevent HIV infection if taken as soon as possible after any potential exposure. See GetPEP info.
Recent PEP guidelines (2016) state that PEP is not recommended where the source has a consistently undetectable viral load.
PrEP and PEP
It is important to understand the difference between PEP (Post exposure prophylaxis) and PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis). A prophylaxis is something which prevents the spread of an infection or disease.
PEP is a course of medication taken within 72 hours of potential exposure to HIV. (see above)
PrEP which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis can be taken before a potential exposure. People who do not have HIV can have a pill daily to prevent getting HIV. For example a couple may be attempting to conceive and the negative partner can take a course of PrEP to reduce any potential risk of transmission from the partner with HIV.
Truvada (the drug used as PrEP) has not yet been licensed for use by negative people as a prevention treatment (PrEP) in Australia. It is licensed for use as a HIV treatment for people with HIV. International trials have shown that it is effective for use by heterosexual couples where one partner is positive and for men and women who may have sex without condoms and/or who inject drugs or have a partner at risk of HIV. It is also effective for couples trying to conceive. The USA has approved the use of PrEP and there are limited ways of accessing PrEP in Australia. We will keep you updated about the situation in Australia.
You can watch a short YouTube video about PrEP and HIV Prevention here
When both partners have HIV
For some people with HIV, having a partner who also has HIV can have some benefits. These couples can support each other and share their wisdom and experience of HIV. However they may also find they need to have more in common than just HIV.
Make sure your health is monitored regularly and discuss any issues with your HIV doctor.
- Our booklet, Life, Loving and HIV: a heterosexual’s guide to serodiscordant relationships covers the world of relationships between serodiscordant, pozneg or magnetic couples.
- Our Sex matters booklet gives an A-Z run down on sexual health for heterosexual couples living with HIV but does not have up to date information about treatment and its role in preventing transmission of HIV.
- Better HealthChannel information about oral, vaginal and anal safe sex.
- You Should Know is a Canadian sexual health information for women in midlife and beyond who are looking for safer sex and HIV prevention information. It’s dedicated to all women wanting to stay informed. It has some great posts and information.