Telling new partners

Telling sexual partners, or potential partners, can be daunting. You might feel worried about being rejected if you tell someone you have HIV. For some people, the fear of rejection is so great that they avoid sex and relationships. It’s important to know that many people with HIV find love and form new relationships after they have been diagnosed.

There are lots of reasons why you might want to talk to your sexual partners about HIV. But there are also reasons why you might not want to. It's something to think about and to decide for yourself. Some people tell partners before they meet them, using online profiles, email or messaging; some people tell every partner at some point before they have sex; and others make selective decisions about who to tell and when.

Being open about having HIV can mean that you're able to talk to your partners about the risks of HIV transmission, how you can reduce these risks and the kind of sex you're both comfortable with. It could also mean that you're more relaxed and at ease about sex.

But it could be, because you're not going to have sex that involves any risk of HIV transmission or are going to use condoms, that you don't see a need to tell your partners.

In some circumstances telling a partner may not be practical and – very rarely – people can react badly.

So it's something you may find that you need to think through or discuss with someone who can offer support, such as a trusted friend, a health adviser, a patient representative at your HIV clinic, or a local HIV organisation. Talking to other people living with HIV about how they deal with this issue can also be helpful.

There is no legal obligation to tell your sexual partners that you have HIV. But it's important to know that the 'reckless' transmission of HIV is a crime and several people have been sent to prison in the UK after they had unprotected sex which resulted in HIV being transmitted to a sexual partner. The cases have involved people who did not tell their partners they were HIV positive before having unprotected sex. For more information, see the section HIV transmission and the criminal law for an explanation of what is considered ‘reckless’ transmission.

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 It may have been superseded by more recent developments.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.