Dating while living with HIV can present unique challenges, but with the right mindset and information, it is possible to have fulfilling relationships.
Members of myHIVteam often discuss their experiences dating, including disclosing how their HIV status has affected their relationships. One myHIVteam member asked, “If you’re single, how has dating been since you learned your status?”
In this article, we discuss ways to think about dating with HIV, whether you are in a long-term relationship or going on a first date.
If you’ve recently learned of your HIV status, the first step to having a fulfilling relationship is making sure that you’re taking care of yourself. It’s important to prioritize your physical and mental health and seek support from your HIV care team — health care providers, therapists, or support groups specializing in HIV.
People living with HIV often face stigma — negative attitudes — from others and even from themselves. By first accepting yourself, overcoming challenges associated with dating becomes less difficult.
“I’ve come to discover that a majority of people seem to think a relationship with someone else is supposed to ‘complete’ them,” a member shared. “I’ve been there and done that, and the truth of the matter is that no one can make you complete except for yourself.”
Dating is also easier if you have a strong support network. Surround yourself with friends and loved ones who are understanding and accepting of your HIV status, as they can provide valuable emotional support as you go through the dating journey.
How do people find a partner in this day and age? According to a 2023 Pew Research report, 1 in 10 U.S. adults who are in committed relationships met their significant other via a dating site or app. Around 25 percent of lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults met their long-term partners via dating sites or apps, according to the report.
One myHIVteam member asked, “Any new dating sites for the positive community out there yet?”
There are plenty of dating apps from which to choose, and you should be able to find one that aligns well with your identity, values, and interests. You also may consider using a dating website or app specifically designed for people who are HIV-positive. These include:
These sites can provide a supportive environment and opportunities to connect with others who share similar experiences.
When online dating, make sure to follow the following safety tips:
No matter how you choose to start dating, look for individuals who are knowledgeable about HIV, compassionate, and willing to engage in open dialogue about sexual health.
Disclosing your HIV status can be a stressful and vulnerable moment in your relationship. Some people choose to disclose their status before going on a first date, while others may choose to do so after things have gotten serious.
Additionally, some people find it best to wait until their HIV is under full control before disclosing. Disclosing once you’re undetectable allows you to speak about your HIV status in a very different way, from a position of confidence and control because you know you can’t transmit the virus anymore.
If and when you do choose to disclose, choose a time and setting that feels comfortable and safe for you. Consider starting the conversation with your partner by asking about their thoughts and knowledge of HIV, addressing any misconceptions, and then sharing your own experiences. Before you disclose your status, you may find it helpful to test the waters and ask your partner about their attitudes toward HIV.
Understand that disclosing your HIV status may involve risks, but it also creates an opportunity for genuine connections based on trust and understanding. People may react very differently to your disclosure. Some may be accepting and supportive. “I’ve dated men who are positive and one who was not. I was honest about my status to all, including the one who was negative, and it appeared he was understanding and accepted my status,” one member shared.
Unfortunately, others may exhibit fear, ignorance, or discrimination. Surround yourself with people who uplift and respect you to help deal with the disclosure process.
If your partner is HIV-negative, they may choose to start taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). This is a safe, effective medication that can reduce a person’s risk of acquiring HIV.
As with antiretroviral treatment (ART), the most common form of PrEP is a daily pill. PrEP and ART medications are also available as injections given once every one to two months. PrEP can provide an additional layer of protection and peace of mind for both you and your partner. A health care provider can help you determine if PrEP is a suitable option for your relationship.
Keep in mind that PrEP protects only against HIV, not other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) or pregnancy. Health experts recommend that sexually active people undergo regular STI testing and use safer-sex practices, especially for individuals with multiple sex partners or with a partner who has multiple partners. Practice safe sex by using condoms consistently and correctly.
You can also protect your partner by sticking to your HIV treatment regimen. Having an undetectable viral load means that your HIV cannot be transmitted by sex to your partner. This is just another reason to make sure to take your HIV medications every day and see your doctor regularly.
Dating while living with HIV can be a complicated, personal journey. There is no one playbook to finding a partner, disclosing your status, and keeping you both as healthy as possible. Thankfully, there are people there to help. Counselors, therapists, and other health care providers are happy to discuss strategies to have a safe and fulfilling dating life. Your myHIVteam community is another resource for discussing dating challenges and successes as an HIV-positive person.
By arming yourself with knowledge, building a supportive network, and embracing open communication, you can navigate dating successfully while living with HIV.
On myHIVteam, the social network for people with HIV and their loved ones, thousands of members come together to ask questions, give advice, and share their stories with others who understand life with HIV.
Are you currently dating or in a relationship? How have you navigated the challenges of dating apps, disclosure, and PrEP? Share your experience in the comments below, or start a conversation by posting on your Activities page.