What Men Need to Know About Sex and HIV


Chris Iliades, MD

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If you are a man who has been diagnosed with HIV, you may feel as though your sex life is over. The trauma of being diagnosed may even cause you to lose interest in sex for a time. But most men regain their desire to have sex and an intimate relationship.

There is a possibility you can pass the virus to your partner. However, you can significantly lower the risk of infection by being proactive. Here are some steps to take to protect both yourself and your partner.

Thanks to years of research and discoveries, we know a lot more about HIV than we did decades ago. Keep yourself safe and healthy by knowing the facts about HIV.

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Oct 23, 2015
  • Talk to your doctor about precautions.

  • Learn as much as you can about safe sex after an HIV diagnosis.

  • Talk to past and present partners, and think about how to talk to future partners.

  • Be honest about what type of sex life you and your partner(s) feel comfortable with.

Get Smart About Sex With HIV

Educate yourself with essential health information, including how HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) pass from one person to another. That’s the best way to keep both you and your partner(s) safe. Your doctor is an important resource, but here are some basics:

  • HIV can pass through blood, semen, and vaginal fluids.

  • HIV drugs that lower the amount of virus in your system (your “viral load”) decrease your risk of passing on HIV, but don’t eliminate it. An 'undetectable' viral load does not mean 'zero virus' and you can still transmit the infection to an unprotected partner.

  • Kissing and touching are not dangerous; saliva isn’t likely to pass the virus.

  • Using a condom correctly is the only way to have safer anal, oral, or vaginal sex.

  • Sharing sex toys is not safe, unless they are cleaned and covered with a lubricated condom.

  • HIV makes you more susceptible to other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs). You and your partner(s) need to be checked for STDs as well.

  • Even if your partner has HIV, you still need to practice safe sex, because you might have different strains of the virus.

Talk to your doctor about any sexual problems you’re having, such as erectile dysfunction. If your partner is a woman, you might also want to address the question of birth control.

Talking to Your Partner About HIV

One of the hardest things about being diagnosed with HIV is talking to partners you’ve had sex with, and to people you’re dating and may have sex with. Nonetheless, all past, present, and future partners have the right to know about your HIV status. Here are some guidelines:

  • Tell any current partner about your HIV status. He or she should be tested for HIV right away. If you are in a sexually active relationship, your partner should be tested at least once a year.

  • Tell future partners, such as someone you’re dating casually, before you have sex.

  • Tell former partners and anyone with whom you shared needles.

  • If you have trouble finding or talking to a former partner, your local health department may be able to tell them for you without using your name.

The way others react to your HIV will depend on how well you know each other, their own HIV status, their own fears and knowledge about HIV, and how you tell them. If you’re really worried about how someone might react, consider having a counselor there to help you.
There is no right or wrong way to share this information, but these tips may make it easier:

  • Pick a comfortable time and place.

  • Anticipate your partner's questions and have answers ready.

  • Talk to other men who have gone through the process.

  • Be prepared to deal with your partner’s reaction.

  • Consider going to a counselor together to deal with feelings that arise afterward.
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Medical Reviewers: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Review Date: Apr 17, 2015

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