Is My Partner at Risk of Having HIV or AIDS?
It's important to ask about HIV and other STDs when you're seriously dating
Are HIV and AIDS still problems?
Yes, HIV (the Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is absolutely still a risk, in the United States as well as every other part of the world.
Unfortunately, many people believe this potentially devastating condition is old history. Some teenagers, who are in the age bracket often at risk, believe the disease no longer exists or that it's been cured.
Not true! It is just as important now to know the status of your mate or partner as ever.
As the former clinic administrator of a large HIV clinic in a major urban city, I learned quite a bit about how the virus is transmitted and which populations are at a higher risk.
Sadly, many people do not know their own status for this infection, so it's not enough to simply ask someone if they're "HIV Positive," you need to know for certain if they're in a high-risk group and then ask them to be tested.
We live in a world where HIV has become a 'managed disease,' not an automatic death sentence.
But because of its risks, and because of the way it is passed from person to person, everyone should discuss this issue when a 'date' becomes a 'partner.'
Do you know if your boyfriend or girlfriend has HIV?
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Do you know the HIV status of your partner or mate?
How can I tell if someone is at risk for HIV?
Basically, anyone can be at risk under certain circumstances. And yet, the diseases is not that easy to catch from other persons. You cannot, however, tell someone is infected with HIV (or at risk for having it) just by looking at them.
Several factors can put a person at a higher risk for being infected with HIV or having AIDS. Here are the most common high-risk groups:
Persons who share needles:
If your partner has ever injected drugs, he or she can be at risk of having HIV. HIV is transmitted through body fluids, especially blood, and those who share needles are in a very high-risk group.
If you are considering a relationship with someone who admits they have used recreational drugs in the past, you should demand to know their exact status regarding HIV. It's easy to get tested at any number of community or public health facilities, and it's free. You can even learn the results within a matter of minutes, and if you agree to be tested together, you'll not only both know the results, you'll be there to offer moral support during the few minutes you're waiting for the results.
In addition, make certain your potential partner is not currently using drugs and has gotten appropriate counseling or treatment to deal with that issue. Aside from HIV and AIDS, drug use can have a serious effect on relationships, and can affect other parts of the user's health.
Men in same-sex relationships:
Because HIV is transmitted through body fluids, men who have had intimate contact with other men are at risk for contracting HIV.
If your prospective male mate has ever been in an intimate relationship with another man, you should insist they get tested before you go forward. Some men who have male partners are very responsible about getting tested regularly, but some do not reveal their status to others, or might think they are not infected but later learn they are.
Plan to get tested together and share the results, and always (always) use protection during intimacy. HIV can go undetected for long periods of time, so one 'clean' test does not mean there's no infection in the body.
Persons who have had blood transfusions:
Although in recent decades, blood donors and blood products are tested for HIV, this was not always the case, and it's not necessarily a uniform practice in all countries.
If your partner has ever had a blood transfusion anywhere, at any time, consider requesting a blood test to ensure they were not exposed to the virus.
Those who are sexually active:
It is commonly assumed by medical professionals that anyone and everyone who has been sexually intimate is at risk of HIV. Although most people feel they 'know' the person they are with, if you or your partner have ever been intimate with another person, you should consider being tested for HIV.
In other words, if you are sexually active at all, you should take precautions and stay informed.
Video on symptoms of HIV and AIDS
What If my partner has HIV?
While it is sad and even devastating news to learn you or the person you care for has HIV, it does not have to be the end of the world.
If you begin dating someone with HIV, you can likely do most of the things you might normally do in a relationship. You can have fun together, play sports, plan a future, get married and even consider having children.
Women with HIV need to pay attention to their health in order to have a safe pregnancy, and although the rate of transmission is now greatly reduced for women with HIV, there's still a risk, and it might be safest to avoid pregnancy and consider adoption.
There are some concerns about HIV and miscarriage, but your physician can guide you, and early prenatal care is essential.
The most important point, though, is to learn the status of your partner before you begin intimacy. You can certainly have a relationship (a long and happy one, from all accounts), but know the facts and address them as a team.
How do people catch HIV or AIDS?
Are seniors citizens and old people at risk for HIV?
Sadly, recent statistics show that HIV infection among seniors (those who are in their older years, say, age 60 and above) is increasing. The number of new infections in seniors increases at a more rapid rate than in most other age groups.
While the overall number of seniors infected with HIV is low, the rate at which it spreads in this population is on the rise.
Seniors often feel HIV or AIDS is a disease that affects only young people or that it's isolated to high-risk groups (gays or substance abusers).
Many seniors find themselves without a partner in their later years, and are understandably thrilled if they meet someone and develop a relationships.
If you, or someone you know, is in this age bracket and has started dating, be aware that testing is very important at this stage of life, too. Home tests are available and can be administered privately (in your own home) with confidential results. It's worth the peace of mind to know the answer to that question.
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© 2012 Marcy Goodfleisch