Whether you have only recently found out you have HIV or you have grown up knowing you have HIV, being a young person living with HIV brings its own challenges.1 Your teenage years are a time of great change – your body develops and changes during puberty as you become an adult, and these changes often go hand in hand with lots of emotions.
Think about what you can do to remind yourself to take your treatment, and to manage your appointments. Many people find support from family and friends helpful, as well as practical things like setting an alarm, or keeping drugs in a pill box with the days of the week on it.2 Making decisions about whether to tell your friends about HIV is different for everyone.
Some people are very open about having HIV – perhaps all your friends and family already know, and it doesn’t feel like a big issue for you.
For many years now, the focus of prevention has been on trying to get society as a whole to adopt condom use as a way of life.
Perhaps this approach was successful early in the epidemic, but today the mood has drastically changed.
It’s important to tell your doctor if you’re taking HIV treatment and contraception together, as some HIV drugs interact with them and make the contraception less effective.5 It’s a good idea to talk to your partner about these things before you have sex, if you can, so that you can share the responsibility for having safer sex.
If your partner knows about HIV, it can make it easier to talk about using condoms.6 Having HIV shouldn’t stop you from having great sex – you have just as much right to a fulfilling and healthy sex life as anyone else – but don’t feel that you have to have sex just because your partner wants to.7 It’s up to you to decide when you feel ready for sex and they should respect that.
When you start a new relationship, it can be really exciting and fun, and it can be intense, as you find out about each other. Deciding how and what to tell them will probably involve a lot of the same considerations as telling a friend.
Having a relationship with someone who doesn’t have HIV (sometimes called a mixed-status relationship) might raise some particular questions for you – when should you tell them that you have HIV? Think about how they might react and the questions they might have.
Just a few words from someone who has been living with HIV for nearly 20 years: it's not that bad and there are times when you forget you have HIV.
Eventually, even when you remember you're positive, it's no longer an issue.3 If you’re going to have sex, remember that using male condoms or female condoms correctly is a really effective way of preventing HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and unplanned pregnancy.
You may decide that you don’t want to tell anyone else for now, and that’s fine.