Living with HIV/AIDS
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5.1   What do I need to do at home?

5.2   Can I have sex?

5.3   Can I have a baby?

5.4   What if I inject drugs?

5.5   Can I travel overseas?

“My husband and I are both HIV positive. He found out first and then I had the test. We were both shocked – we’d never thought we were at risk. I was really angry with him at first. But then I thought that maybe I gave the virus to him. We’ll never know and now it doesn’t matter. What matters is that we stay healthy and enjoy life. Our local AIDS Council helped us find support services and we found a doctor we trust. We learn every day to live with HIV.”

5.1 What do I need to do at home?

You may be worried that you can pass on HIV to the people you live with, especially children. However, they are not at risk of infection just because you live together.

HIV is not transmitted through casual contact between people sharing a home.  Kissing, hugging, playing, eating, sharing a bed or household items such as plates, cups and cutlery will not transmit HIV.

Your health is important. If you have HIV, your immune system is not working well, and you are at risk of catching infections from the people around you. This can have serious consequences for your health.

To prevent the spread of infections, these precautions are recommended as part of household routine:

•    Everyone in the house should wash their hands after using the toilet and before handling food.

•    Always wear gloves when cleaning up blood and other body fluids. Clean the area with a paper towel, followed by soapy water. Disinfect with bleach, according to the instructions on the bottle, and dry the area with a clean paper towel.

•    Bed linen, towels and clothing with blood or body fluids on them, should be washed separately.

•    Avoid kissing and close contact with people suffering colds or flu and children who have childhood diseases such as chickenpox, mumps or measles.

5.2 Can I have sex?

Having HIV does not mean you cannot have sex. However, you may need to make some changes to your sex life.

There are a number of things to consider:

You need to protect your partner from infection with HIV if he/she is HIV negative by having safe sex.

•    Having safe sex means using condoms, dams and water-based lubricant every time you have sex. Condoms form a barrier to prevent the HIV in your blood, semen or vaginal fluids from entering your partner’s bloodstream.

•    Oral sex is regarded as a very low risk activity for transmitting HIV. However, there may be some risk if your partner has some cuts or sores in the mouth or have had recent dental work. Using condoms and dams is the safest way to have oral sex.

•    Effective treatment of HIV (i.e. you have undetectable viral load) can also help reduce your risk of transmitting HIV. Talk to your doctor for more information.

•    Kissing, cuddling, mutual masturbation and massage are also safe sex.

•    Depending on the state or territory you live in, you may be required by law to tell any sexual partner of your HIV positive status, even if you intend to have safe sex. The AIDS Council in most states or territories will be able to advise you further. For up-to-date information about the law and HIV, contact the HIV/AIDS Legal Centre www.halc.org.au

•    Telling someone that you have HIV can be difficult. Talk to your doctor or Social worker (or counsellor or health care professional) for advice.

If you’ve had unsafe sex with your partner, it is possible he or she may be HIV positive and should consider having a HIV test.

If your partner is also HIV positive, you may agree not to practise safe sex. However, it is uncertain whether infection with another strain of HIV causes harm. You may wish to discuss this with your doctor, but the final decision will be one you and your partner make together.

Remember, sex involves both you and your partner, and you are both responsible for safe sex.

“I was in a fog when I found out. I felt like my whole life had just been taken away. The doctor wasn’t much help – she just said I would have to be careful and not spread HIV around. I didn’t even think about sex for about 2 years. It was like that part of my life was gone forever. Then I met someone and we got close without even realising it. I told him I’m HIV positive before we had sex. He was pretty shocked but he listened. Now we have safe sex. And it’s great sex!”

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