There is no doubt about it, being HIV-positive can take you on a challenging journey to say the least, and the question of relationships and the issues they bring to the table will hit home for some, sooner rather than later.
For couples, a HIV diagnosis within the relationship will either make it or break it. For a singleton it will introduce a whole gambit of new dilemmas to deal with from: If, when and how should I disclose my status, to maybe I should just become celibate!
The root-cause of the problem is easy to pinpoint: the misconceptions and myths that some people still hold about how HIV and how it is transmitted are to blame. It is those misconceptions that can be so hurtful and damaging to a person that is living with HIV: after all it is worth remembering, there are a thousands of couples living in relationships were one is positive and one is negative - or what the medical profession call: a sero-discordant relationship.
That in mind, and in my own small attempt to try and break down some of the barriers in both the HIV-positive and HIV-negative communities, I would like to introduce you to Richard a young HIV-negative man with a very important story to tell…
My name is Richard. I am 19-years-old. I go out with a girl who is HIV positive and we have been going out for a year although I have known her for the last six. When she told me, I was shocked because of the way the media often portrays people with HIV. My girlfriend is smart, attractive and fun to be with, not an HIV sufferer or anyone’s victim.
I accepted her status because she is a human being and she is also the same person that I went to secondary school with. Sometimes it’s hard having a relationship with her but I think that goes for all women! The only difference is that she has a virus in her blood that has no cure. I worry about her health but she has been taking her treatment now for ages.
Most men my age think that you can’t have sex with someone with HIV. This is totally wrong you are not in any danger unless you don’t wear a condom but this applies whether someone is HIV-positive or not. There are other illnesses you can get like gonorrhea or syphilis. Or you may not get a virus, but end up being a teenage father instead: with no resources to support your child and all your dreams dashed. There is no difference between having sex with someone who is infected and someone who is not.
My girlfriend is healthy probably much healthier than me. Her medication keeps her healthy you never know she’ll probably live longer then me. Me going out with her has given me lots of knowledge… like most people think that when someone has HIV it’s automatically AIDS which is wrong. No one can catch AIDS and no one has ever died from AIDS and no one has ever died from AIDS. Unfortunately many generations of people have died from an AIDS related illness.
I have learnt that it’s hard for anyone who is HIV-positive – let alone a child or young person – to live in a world where people are narrow minded and not willing to learn the truth. If you don’t open your mind up to different things you will never learn anything. Due to treatments and medication available you can’t tell what someone with HIV looks like. They could be your next door neighbor your best friend your brother or even your mum.
I have also learnt that you can never tell who you might fall in love with, because there is no rule book telling us who we should or shouldn’t love. It is a learning experience and if I am still with her when we want children I also know that we can conceive children who are not infected with HIV. Of course I really hope that one-day scientists will find a cure that could help my girlfriend, but while there is no cure all we can do is be there for each other.