A serodiscordant relationship is one in which one partner is HIV-negative, and the other is HIV-positive.
All couples face conflict and obstacles, but emotions can become even more complicated when you share your life with someone who has a different HIV status than you. The conflicting emotions and feelings can sometimes be overwhelming and can leave either partner in a vulnerable position.
It is important to realise that both the HIV-negative and HIV-positive partner in the relationship will both have some concerns at the beginning and throughout the relationship.
Things the HIV-positive partner may be concerned about include:
The HIV-negative partner may have some concerns of his own including:
What's important to understand is that while each partner may have their own concerns, there will probably be some common themes among them.
Open and honest communication is the key to being able to come to a common ground, and being able to support one another during the relationship - good times and bad.
Talking about your feelings with each other is a practical way of working through some of the complex issues that are raised in a serodiscordant relationship.
Not discussing these issues can lead to risky behaviour and greater anxiety, and trouble in the future of the relationship.
Here are some key points of discussion that can be considered:
Discuss your fears about loss and potential illness and explore any feelings of guilt that the negative partner may be feeling for not being infected. Identify areas where you need each other's support, or perhaps the support of a professional.
Discuss each other's concerns about transmission from one partner to the other. Come together with a safe plan that includes what precautions each of you will take, what risks you are willing to take, and prepare an emergency plan including knowing how to access PEP should an accidental exposure happen (see the PEP section on this site).
Be open and honest about your concerns about things like treatment side effects, difficulties adhering to the daily treatment regime, and its potential impact on your body image.
Talk about the stresses and fear that the HIV-negative partner may have about potentially having to fill the role of caregiver. Discuss the concerns and fears that the HIV-positive partner may have about getting ill and needing care.
Talk about some of the issues regarding disclosure of HIV status outside of the relationship. While not disclosing may reduce the effects of stigma and discrimination, disclosing may increase support and reduce isolation. Keep in mind that the effects of disclosure may have more of an impact on the HIV-positive partner, and as such, it is crucial that he has a big say in how that information is divulged and to whom.
It's important to remember that just like with any other relationship, those who are dealing with HIV need to respect each other's decisions and validate each other's feelings.
You may find it helpful to seek professional support for the issues that you and your partner have the most difficulty with. Check out the "contacts" page for counselling services.