Rams’ Rede: HIV conversation

Rams’ Rede,

I have been seeing this girl for a couple weeks and everything is going really well. We are starting to get serious, and we just had sex a few days ago. The problem is that I’m HIV positive and I couldn’t find a way to tell her, and I still can’t. I don’t want to lose her, but I know that I have to tell her. What should I do?

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Scared

 

Dear Scared,

I understand where you’re coming from, I really do. Not only having your diagnosis, but then having to navigate the waters of dating at the same time can be really hard, and there’s no manual that comes with it.

That being said, this is not, ever, the way that you should have handled this.

Let’s turn the tables around and she’s the one with the positive test results — you would want to know as soon as possible, before clothes ever came off, right? In fact, before the exchange of any bodily fluids is the time to sit down and talk about it.

I know that it ruins the moment and can potentially throw a wrench in a relationship that is just beginning, but, unfortunately, that’s the way that it shakes down.

But, now that we’re at this junction, we have to figure out a way for you to tell her so that she can get tested ASAP.

There are many ways to approach this, but I would recommend complete honesty. Tell her, without sugarcoating it, what led to you having a positive test result and try to explain to her why you didn’t tell her earlier. Make sure that she knows that you had no intention of hurting her, but that you haven’t quite figured out how to live with this either. There is no good way to have this discussion, so full-disclosure is the best policy.

Expect her to have some questions. HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is not something that many people discuss on a daily basis, and many people don’t understand what that means. You will have to take the time to explain to her that HIV can be spread through the exchange of bodily fluids, but that you can’t transmit it through saliva alone, usually. Debunk those myths that are still floating around: being HIV positive does not mean that you are either a drug addict or homosexual. Explain the difference between HIV and AIDS, and tell her what you can expect in the future, even if that isn’t something you’re comfortable with confronting yourself.

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Tell her that, although you knew about your diagnosis long before you started seeing her, that this is a conversation that no one wants to bring up, and no one wants to talk about. Educate her on how this affects your life, and please, please, offer to pay for her test.

But, be sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that she gets tested.

She’s going to be scared. She’s probably going to be so scared that she’s angry. Accept this, because we’re too far in to go back. Accept that she very well may never want to have any contact with you ever again, but let her understand that you need to make sure, for your own self and for her future sexual partners, that she gets tested.

And finally, explain to her that there are treatments. HIV, given the proper treatment regime that works for your body and has the fewest side effects, can be well controlled, although there is no known cure. Explain that even if her test comes back positive, that doesn’t mean she can never have sex again. It will just have to be restricted and controlled.

And apologize. A simple “I’m sorry” cannot make up for this, but sometimes it can go a long way. She needs to know how you feel about what you’ve now put her through, and that you are willing to go to any lengths to fix something that very well might not be fixable.

In closing, when approaching this with someone else that you might have a future with, you can never tell someone too soon. Eventually, you will find someone that is willing to navigate this with you, but you have to tell them long before they’re at risk.

Good luck,

Rams’ Rede