Telling your current partner

Finding out you have HIV when you are in a relationship can mean you have a wonderful source of support and love, but it can also bring its own issues.

If you have spent time discussing having an HIV test with your partner, husband, wife, boyfriend or girlfriend, then you may have a good idea what their reaction might be. If you didn’t discuss this, then think about the practicalities of telling them and how they might react.

You may also be worried that you might have passed on HIV to your partner, particularly if you have had sex without using a condom.

If you have a monogamous relationship (you and your partner have agreed to be faithful to each other or ‘exclusive’) and you were infected with HIV as a result of sexual activity outside of the relationship, then an additional concern may be having to talk to your partner about this.

It can be a very difficult situation for both you and your partner to deal with and it is likely to raise a lot of strong emotions in both of you. It may take some time for you and your partner to work through the issues that arise from your HIV diagnosis.

For some people, it is particularly difficult to tell their partner that they have HIV. You may rely on your partner for money or, if you live together, you may have concerns about your partner wanting you to leave your home. You may also be fearful of violence.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help and support with these issues. Your HIV clinic will be able to help, and there may also be a local HIV organisation which can offer you advice and help. You can use NAM's e-atlas to find a service near you.

Finally, difficult as it may be to tell your partner, there are often reasons why this makes good sense. If you don’t usually use condoms when you have sex, then telling them you have HIV and how it is (and is not) passed on can help you to start an open conversation about sex. It’s also important to know that if you don’t tell your partner and have unprotected sex with him or her and they become infected with HIV, you could be prosecuted. (You can find out more about this in the section HIV transmission and the criminal law.)

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.