What Do I Risk by Not Telling My Partner?

Dear Christine,

I discovered my HIV positive status two months ago during a test for life insurance. The nurse who gave me the results recommended I not make plans for the future since I don’t have long to live.

I don't have words to tell you how I hated myself. I spent two months contemplating suicide. I could hardly sleep or eat, or even listen and talk to people.

Then I began reading at HIV and AIDS web sites and found yours and other sites with alternative views. These have helped me to think more clearly and even think again about the future.

Now the problem is my fiancée. I haven’t told her about testing HIV positive yet. We really love each other and planned to get married later this year. If I tell her about my test, I’m afraid she and her family will hate me and our relationship will end.

Since we had unprotected sex for two years before my test, she must be HIV positive by now, too. Given this, why should I break her heart and destroy our relationship by telling her about my test?

Dion A

Dear Dion,

I know very well how difficult it is to tell someone you love that you’ve tested positive. At the same time, I think people in intimate relationships should be informed of a partner’s positive HIV status, whatever the test result may or may not mean.

I suggest you decide how to speak with your fiancée about this and chose a time to do it soon. Your partner needs to know what's going on in your life. Two months is a long time to hide the intense emotions you’ve been through, and each day you let pass without having this conversation will only make it harder. A time that feels right to talk will usually present itself if you’re looking for the opportunity.

Keeping important facts secret from people we love is both difficult and unhealthy. What seems like the path of least resistance today can easily turn into the road to total disaster tomorrow.

Imagine if your fiancée finds out years from now that you tested positive and that you failed to tell her. What will happen to her trust for you? How would you feel if the situation were reversed? Also, depending on where you live, there may be legal implications for withholding information on your HIV status.

Even though the tests cannot diagnose actual infection with HIV and there is scant evidence for HIV causing any of the problems known as AIDS, and even though you may be convinced that testing positive is not indicative of current or future illness, I think we must always consider what our partners may believe about HIV and AIDS.

It’s not reasonable to assume your fiancée must be already be positive just because you’ve had unprotected sex for two years. At the same time your message arrived, I heard from a married and monogamous couple together for seven years in which the husband tested positive three days ago during insurance screening. They, too, thought their lives were over, and assumed the wife and kids would test positive, but only the husband does. I see similar situations with positive husbands all the time and know many women in long-term monogamous relationships who suddenly test HIV positive even though their husbands and children are negative. In most every case, the couples have stayed together after one tests positive. I also know of many people who entered into relationships knowing beforehand that their partner tested positive.

I think love, like hope, springs eternal. Please give your fiancée the chance to love and accept you as you are.

Take care,

Christine

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