What’s important at the start of a relationship?

Talking to each other — and not assuming anything. When you start a new relationship you are likely to discover many new things about each other. The sense of intimacy and trust that starting a relationship sometimes creates can lead you to believe that you have a greater sense of agreement than you actually do.

The early days of a relationship can be fun and exciting and a time when you think that nothing can go wrong, but this is when you also need to take care. The first year of a relationship is the time when most HIV infections take place. To stay protected from HIV, you need to make sure you are always having protected sex or that you
know each other’s HIV status for sure. This can be difficult because you may feel like you want to stop using condoms as a way of expressing love and trust for your new partner. Around half of men in relationships don’t use condoms with their partner. But there are steps you and your partner need to take first to make sure this is safe.

If you are both HIV negative and are thinking about not using condoms, it’s especially important that you are sure about your HIV status — and your partner’s. This knowledge can only come from recent test results.

What if one of us is HIV-positive?

This does not mean that the relationship can’t continue. Many gay men have happy and successful relationships even though they have a different HIV status. You need to take precautions to reduce the risk of the negative partner getting HIV. Condoms are the most effective. Other ways of reducing — but not eliminating — risk, are only having unprotected sex if the HIV-positive partner is on antiretroviral treatments and has an undetectable viral load, and/or the HIV- negative partner always being the ‘top’ (insertive) when fucking.

Sexual agreements help reduce your risk of HIV, or the risk to your partner.