Audrey Nosenga and Tinashe Rufurwadzo
MANY adolescents and young people living with HIV worry that they can never be in a relationship and have a family of their own. Since today is Valentine’s Day, some would expect roses and gifts from their lovers and some might think that it is the best day to let their partner know about their HIV status. What does this day mean to adolescents and young people living with HIV? Is it red or black Valentine?
There are various myths and misconceptions which are associated with one being HIV positive and how they can be involved in a long lasting relationship, some even think that by being HIV positive, someone will not have sexual feelings or they do not deserve to be loved.
None of these things are true – adolescents and young people living with HIV can fall in long lasting relationships, get married, and have a family with HIV negative children.
When you start a new relationship, it can be really exciting and fun and it can be intense, as you learn about each other.
Having a relationship with someone who doesn’t have HIV (sometimes called a mixed-status relationship) might raise some particular questions for you – when should you tell them that you are living with HIV? How will they react? How can you have sex without passing on HIV?
Deciding how and what to tell them will probably involve a lot of the same considerations as telling a friend. Think about how they might react and the questions they might have.
It’s up to you to decide how much to tell them and when.
You may feel like you want to avoid having a difficult conversation, but bear in mind that if you wait for a long time they may be upset that you didn’t tell them sooner.
Telling people about your HIV status is not easy and it’s a continuous process but one needs to have the right information and be ready to take whatever response people might say about their HIV status.
If you’re going to have sex, remember that using male condoms or female condoms correctly and consistently is a really effective way of preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.
Many clinics can provide you with free condoms and other commodities like Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis- the use of prescribed medications to keep HIV negative people from becoming infected.
If you are taking HIV treatment and it’s keeping the level of HIV in your body (viral load) very low, that also reduces the risk of HIV being passed on.
For women, there are also additional ways of preventing pregnancy, including the contraceptive pill, implant or injection. It’s important to tell your doctor if you’re taking HIV treatment and contraception together, as some HIV drugs interfere with them and make the contraception less effective.
It’s a good idea to talk to your partner about these things before you have sex, if you can, so that you can share the responsibility for having safer sex. If your partner knows about HIV, it can make it easier to talk about safer sex.
Having HIV shouldn’t stop you from having great sex — you have just as much right to a fulfilling and healthy sex life as anyone else — but don’t feel that you have to have sex just because your partner wants to. It’s up to you to decide when you feel ready for sex and they should respect that.
Always remember that Your body, Your rules, Love yourself always
Always listen to Scars to your beautiful by Alessia Cara when you feel rejected or unwanted. I am giving you just the chorus here:
But there’s a hope that’s waiting for you in the dark
You should know you’re beautiful just the way you are
And you don’t have to change a thing
The world could change its heart
No scars to your beautiful, we’re stars and we’re beautiful
dance if you have to . . .
The authors are HIV Advocates with youth serving organisations in Zimbabwe