for Veterans and the Public
Telling your sex partners
This may be one of the hardest things you have to do. But you need to tell your sex partner(s) that you are living with HIV, 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 be difficult.
Your partner may not be prepared to offer you support during a time when you need it. Your partner may be worrying about their 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.
Unless your partner is known to have HIV infection, they should get an HIV test right away. Don't assume that the results will come back positive, even if you have been having unprotected sex or sharing needles. 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 about HIV with someone you are dating casually or someone you met recently 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."
Other times, you may want to bring it up by saying something like, "Let's talk about safer sex." Whichever approach you choose, you should 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 take your HIV medications every day (this is very effective in protecting partners from infection) and practice safer sex (see the Protecting your partner section). Whatever way you decide to tell your partner, the tips at the bottom of this page may help.
Talking to former partners
With people you 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 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 provider about this service.
Before telling your partner that you have HIV, take some time 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 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 make a plan with a social worker or counselor.
- Imagine several ways in which your partner might react to the news. Write down what they might say, and then think about what you might say in response.