Testing Together: Talk, Test, Test, Trust

young attractive gay men couple lying on bed together in bedroom posing with attitude in love with naked torso in homosexual relationship concept

So, now that you’ve been in a relationship for a couple of months or weeks, you and your partner have stopped using condoms. This makes sense considering the trust you’ve built during this time, so surely your partner would know his HIV status, be honest about their sexual history and wouldn’t put you at risk. Right?! Assuming that all of the above is correct you’ve removed condoms from the equation completely.

You know what they say about making assumptions…

Although we may have intuition and good judge of character, the fact is, we may know less about the person than we think. Even if we know the guy well, the only way someone can know their HIV status is to get tested.

If new couples are thinking about not using condoms, there is a bit more to consider before you stop condom use altogether. Being open and honest with each other about relationship expectations is crucial as this will determine your decision. Is it a closed or open relationship? What are our rules if we play with other people? What if things change down the track?

Talk, Test, Test, Trust is a simple formula to assist with relationship decision making.

It all starts with talking things over with your partner. Relationships are ever evolving and can change at any time. When matters don’t get discussed openly and honestly is when problems can arise. At this point you should be agreeing on whether the relationship is closed, considering disclosing your HIV status (negative or positive) and setting boundaries and expectations.

Regardless of whether you both decide to stop using condoms, the next step is to agree to get tested together; an initial test and a follow-up test (the follow-up test covers the window periods for HIV and Syphilis). Remember to use condoms between tests.

After the follow-up test, if you are both HIV negative – and neither of you have put yourselves at risk – you can both be sure you are HIV negative. It is at this point, if you choose, you can stop using condoms. However, the commitment doesn’t stop there. If, for whatever reason, one of you breaks boundaries set, for example,  having condomless sex with someone else, it is important to let your partner know. To protect your partner, you will need to start using condoms again, and probably restart ‘Talk, Test, Test, Trust’.

There is also the possibility that one of you has a positive result. If it’s chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis, you need to be treated and do any follow-up as advised by your clinic. If one of you has a positive HIV result, this can make things more complicated. Whilst this means there are more things to consider, it doesn’t mean you can’t continue and have a successful relationship if one person is HIV positive. HIV in a relationship is becoming less and less of an issue with strong risk reduction benefits of antiretroviral treatments (google “undetectable viral load”) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) becoming more accessible.

For those who find it a challenge to have these kinds of discussions with their partner, the WA AIDS Council offers counselling for couples. If you want a more informal chat you can also see one of the nurses or peer educators at M Clinic.

If you and your partner would like more information on testing together or where you can get tested for HIV and STI’s, contact the M Clinic at (08) 9227 0734.  You can now book online using the link on our Facebook page (www.facebook.com/TheMClinic) or on our website (www.mclinic.org).

Tony Bober

M Clinic

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