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Serio-positive relationships: Can they work?

Feb 1, 2004

Dr. Bob- I am a gay man in his 30s who works for his local ASO. For those 2 reasons alone, I am surprised to be asking this question, but I am truly stumped and not able to find too much information online.

A close friend of mine, who is also a gay male, is contemplating becoming involved with someone he knows is HIV+. As of my friends last HIV test, he was HIV-. My question is, how well do serio-positive relationships work, are there resources and support for people in this situation, and are there any statistics available that examine the success rate the negative partner has had remaining negative while in the relationship?

My concern for my friend is not that he will become involved with someone who is HIV+ but more directed towards how he can "stay safe" and still have a committed, loving relationship with less concern towards becoming infected. Thank you in advance for taking the time to answer my question. Sincerely,

Mr. Cox

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello Mr. Cox,

Is your name really Cox? Your first name wouldn't happen to be "Woody" would it?

Actually, there is at least some information about magnetic couples (one HIV+, the other, negative) online, because I wrote it! Check the archives of this forum. This question comes up fairly frequently.

Basically, your friend needs a "positive" view of safer sex! I'll make a few brief points. One of the great things about being alive is having sex. Sex is as important to seropositives as it is to seronegatives. A healthy expression of sexuality is an integral part of general health. Magnetic couples need to create safer sex rituals that both partners agree to. Many magnetic couples have very successful and satisfying relationships. Steve and I can testify to that!

Our advice for magnetic couples is:

1. Communication is key.

2. HIV-positives feel better when HIV negatives share the worry of possible infection.

3. Accept each other as different is important.

4. Get graphic about sexual experiences and fantasies.

5. Discuss what each feels is unsafe based on individual comfort level and medical facts.

6. If an exposure occurs, consider PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis).

The bottom line is that sex is not a luxury we can easily do without. There is no reasonable substitute that is anywhere near as pleasurable. Life-long celibacy as an option, in my opinion, is analogous to never crossing a city street for fear of being hit by a car. For all sexually active people (including magnetic couples), condoms and common sense are as practical and potentially lifesaving as looking both ways at a busy intersection before crossing the street!

There is no reason why your friend cannot "stay safe" and have a committed, loving, and sexually fulfilling relationship as part of a serodiscordant couple. The advice is the same for everyone: Think ahead, plan ahead, use your head, know and weigh the risks, and enjoy sex for what it is wonderful!

Stay well.

Dr. Bob

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