Q and A


Why does stigma still stop me telling my boyfriend?

Hi am a woman 24 years old and hiv positive. I’m afraid to tell my boyfriend as he is negative. My viral load is undetectable and I’m using ARVs but I always hide them.

What are my chances cos if I tell him he will leave me and I cant afford to loose him.

I have been open on my status many times but they leave me.

I am afraid I’ll die being single without someone I love.

Pls don’t judge me as I already judge myself everyday.



Your questions are all important and your situation I think is one that lots of other positive people are faced with.

I am impressed with your strength and honesty in being able to recognise and talk about this. Many people have exactly the same difficult circumstances and because of their isolation, they have little support to talk through options.

So while I don’t have answers, it is important to be able to post something about this online for other people to read.

One way to look at this might be if you think your partner might change his views over time, if he gets to know you better and if he also gets better information about HIV in 2014. The PARTNER study showed that treatment dramatically reduces the chance of further sexual transmission.

For example, you asked about risk in your question, and in this study after 44,500 times that an HIV positive people had sex without a condom with an HIV negative partner, there were ZERO transmissions as long as their viral load was undetectable on treatment.

Treatment also dramatically reduces the chance that there is a risk of transmitting HIV is you want to have children and your life expectancy is now similar to someone who doesn’t have HIV.

But stigma still continues because many HIV negative people continue to be ignorant about these facts. Your experience with previous partners is also common.

One way to test this might be to talk about HIV in general conversation to see his views. Or to talk about news and research in general conversation to see it this makes any difference. You could say you heard about a friend in this situation, or a cousin of a friend stayed in a relationship after hearing this.

If you think that your partner would react badly, and there is little hope for change, then you have to be careful for your own health. Even though he is not at risk because your viral load is undetectable, if you are worried that he may be violent, then this is not good a good situation.

Just as importantly, it may not be healthy for you to have a relationship where this part of your life has to be hidden. I understand that you get lonely and don’t want to be on your own, but you deserve a partner who values you for everything about you. Living a second-best option is sometimes worse than being without a partner.

Although I know how lonely and frustrating this can be, you have a long time to find someone who is right for you.

I don’t know anything about your relationship or which country you live – but I wondered whether you know other HIV positive people. This could help with support but you might also find someone you like where disclosure is not an issue. This works very well for lots of people – though it doesn’t answer all the other things you have to work on in a relationship. There must be other people in your community who are positive too.

Also – and this is a long shot – is there any chance your boyfriend might be positive and that he hasn’t been able to tell you?

Hopefully other people will add other views to this discussion below – but good luck in whatever you decide – and I hope things work out well.


  1. Lisa Thorley

    Hi D,

    If you’d like to talk about this one-to-one, then we can email each other.

  2. D

    This is the most encouraging post and replies I have read. I have no family and few friends but I have him and I feel his love but he doesn’t know. It hurts to hide a secret from someone I love so much. He is a nurse and fairly well
    Educated as to the facts but the facts are just facts and do little to assuage fear . I guess it’s going to be love that conquers the fear and a test of love is needed. We have to look after ourselves and the stress of these situations is unbearable and dangerous. I have already let him down. I won’t be perfect anymore when he looks at me after I tell him. I Want to run. Go back to the ex who gave me HIV. I managed well and took care of him and loved him but he could not return the support. The guy I am now seeing is away with family in another country for 3 weeks. I can’t tell him now as that would ruin his holiday and his time with family. Do I tell him
    When he is home? Is there ever a good or better time or set of circumstances? The hypothetical conversations have gone well and I am on ART and undetectable. We do not have Prep in the UK as yet but I can source some for him if he still wants to be with me. I have finally managed to drag myself out of a depression that brought me so close to the end of my life. If this doesn’t workout I don’t know what I’m going to do. I don’t have much of a support network but that’s usually by choice as I am a bit of a loner. I don’t have enough coping mechanisms to help me manage the potential disaster. Thanks for all of your posts and info. I wish you all the very best

  3. Silvia

    Hello I am SIlvia and also a woman living with HIV. Thank you so much for asking this question, and I also really appreciate and agree with Simon clear answers and suggestions. I also would really encourage you to meet others living with HIV. I think hearing others’ stories can be really empowering. Many people living with HIV date people who are HIV negative and it works out, once the ignorance around HIV is dispelled. But sometimes it doesn’t and it is crucial to have a good support network that understands HIV. I have written a blog about telling others that we live with HIV and maybe you may find some useful tips there. http://hivpolicyspeakup.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/telling-somebody-i-have-hiv/

  4. Winnie

    Thanks Simon, I agree with everything you said. The partner needs to be sounded out using hypothetical situations. All the facts in the world won’t help! Many times, unfortunately, it is about self preservation, social status, what will other people think? This is what drives how some people react to a given situation. They can be very irrational. But at times people will surprise you and respond favourably. Very dicey!

  5. chandra

    Well said Simon. It all relies on bonding and understanding. Though if she tells him she is POZ he may not react well. He may feel sad about her or maybe show sympathy. Maybe he doesn’t want to leave her alone. It’s all depends upon how they are bonding. As you said, to tell him in indirect way first to check the reactions.

    It’s her boyfriend’s individual decision. So better to express as some other person facing this situation.

    I hope she get’s good news.