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Telling your sexual partners

for Veterans and the Public

Telling your sexual partners

This may be one of the hardest things you have to do. But you need to tell your sexual partner that you are HIV positive, whether you have a primary partner such as a spouse or girlfriend or boyfriend, have more than one partner, or are single or casually dating.

What follows are tips for talking to your main partner, other partners, and former partners.

Talking to your main partner

If you are in a relationship, one of the first things you will probably think about after learning that you have HIV is telling your partner or partners. For some couples, a positive HIV test may have been expected. For others, the news will be a surprise that can bring up difficult issues.

Your partner may not be prepared to offer you support during a time when you need it. Your partner may be worrying about his or her own HIV status. On the other hand, if you think you may have contracted HIV from your partner, you are probably dealing with your own feelings.

If your partner is not already HIV positive, he or she should get an HIV test right away. Don't assume that the results will come back positive, even if you have been having unsafe sex or sharing needles. Until he or she has been tested, your partner may assume the worst and may blame you for possibly spreading the disease. It is important that you discuss these feelings with each other in an open and honest way, perhaps with a licensed counselor.

Talking to new partners

Talking with someone you are dating casually or someone you met recently about HIV may be difficult. You might not know this person very well or know what kind of reaction to expect. When telling a casual partner or someone you are dating, each situation is different and you might use a different approach each time. Sometimes you may feel comfortable being direct and saying, "Before we have sex, I want you to know that I have HIV."

Another time, you may want to bring it up by saying something like, "Let's talk about safer sex." Whichever approach you choose, you probably want to tell the person that you have HIV before you have sex the first time. Otherwise, there may be hurt feelings or mistrust later. Also be sure to practice safer sex. Whatever way you decide to tell, these tips might help:

Talking to former partners

With people you have had sex with in the past or people you have shared needles with, it can be very difficult to explain that you have HIV. However, it is important that they know so that they can decide whether to get tested.

If you need help telling people that you may have been exposed to HIV, most city or county health departments will tell them for you, without using your name. Ask your doctor about this service.

Remember

Before telling your partner that you have HIV, take some time alone to think about how you want to bring it up.

  • Decide when and where would be the best time and place to have a conversation. Choose a time when you expect that you will both be comfortable, rested, and as relaxed as possible.
  • Think about how your partner may react to stressful situations. If there is a history of violence in your relationship, consider your safety first and plan the situation with a case manager or counselor.
  • Imagine several ways in which your partner might react to the news that you are HIV positive. Write down what she or he might say, and then think about what you might say in response.