By Thomas Whitfield
The World Health Organization reported that in 2017 almost 50% of all new HIV transmissions occurred among main partners, or people who are in relationships. There are plenty of ways that people in serodiscordant relationships can keep each other healthy, but all include having open and honest dialogue.
My boyfriend gave me HIV, and I don’t know if I can forgive him. We’ve been together for almost four years, and always monogamous. Two weeks ago, I went to my doctor for a regular check-up. He drew some blood and ended up testing for HIV. I hadn’t been tested in years because of my relationship, and it came back positive. I honestly didn’t know how to respond: I’d never cheated, and I didn’t think my boyfriend had either. I was at work when I found out, immediately left and called him. I was crying and screaming at him, then he broke down and started apologizing. He went to the doctor, got tested, and found out he’s positive too. That night he broke down and told me he’d cheated a few times. I cried, told him I needed space and left the apartment to stay with a friend. I came back home a few days ago. I love him, and I want to work this out. I don’t know what to do or how to move past this. Or if maybe I should end it. I feel very hurt. – Male, Gay, 27
I’m sorry that you’re going through this. It sounds like you’re going through a lot and this was entirely unexpected. I’m not sure if you’re upset about the cheating, HIV transmission or both. So, I’m going to address both. First, HIV or not, it’s understandable that you feel lied to and hurt because he cheated. If the transmission hadn’t happened, how would you have handled this? In some of the couples work that I do, cheating has happened, and we try to focus on looking forward. What would you want to change now so that this doesn’t ruin your relationship? Does he want to be open? Would you want to be open? And if so, what is or isn’t acceptable, and how will you tell each other if either of you breaks your agreement? Second, you have to accept that you’re HIV-positive, because that isn’t going to change (at least not with modern medicine). No matter how angry you are with him, or anyone else, that’s just how it is. And again, focusing on the future, think about how you guys can work together to keep each other healthy. Current medication regimens are amazing, and you guys can have a completely normal and healthy life (together or separate). This is still new for you, so you might be in a bit of shock. I’d also recommend talking to a therapist, either alone or as a couple. Often cheating can be overcome with work. And having someone who is nonjudgmental to discuss your status with can also be helpful, because there is, unfortunately, a lot of stigma around HIV, even in NYC.