What kind of support is important for an HIV positive person and their spouse? And what do they wish people to know about HIV? We interviewed one couple from our peer support group and asked how HIV has impacted their lives together.
Does being HIV positive impact your everyday life?
Person living with HIV: Except for taking medicine every day, it doesn´t really affect my everyday life.
Spouse: I don´t have the virus but my partner has. I think it does not impact his life. He just needs to take the medication every day. When we have sex we always use the condom, that´s all.
Where have you got support for living with HIV?
Person living with HIV: I have got expert advice from hospital, care from spouse and other support from NGO organization.
Spouse: In Finland we have got support from Hivpoint.
What kind of support has been most important?
Person living with HIV: All support is important. The above mentioned points are to me upmost.
Spouse: The medication and guidance on treatment are the most important.
Have you experienced any prejudice for being HIV positive?
Person living with HIV: Before moving to Finland prejudice were from all over the life. Lack of knowledge of HIV makes people around you fear HIV positive people.
Spouse: Back in the country where we are from we keep it confidential (as a secret), then everything seems to be ok.
What do you wish people knew about HIV?
Person living with HIV: Three points: 1) It is a disease which can be treated. 2) HIV patients can live just as normal and healthy lives as the others. 3) Being with HIV positive person (as a partner, friend etc) will not get you infected.
Spouse: I want people to know that daily communication and friendship will never transmit the virus. Also to remember that keep yourself safe when having sex (use a condom)!
How about COVID-19 pandemic, how has it impacted your life?
Person living with HIV: Some social services have reduced working hours which can make life a bit less convenient. Less chance to travel ad meet new people face to face.
Spouse: I feel the biggest impact is that we cannot travel freely outside of Finland. And it makes people less scared of HIV since COVID-19 can take people ´s lives much quicker than HIV.
What brings you joy in life?
Person living with HIV: Understanding each other, being treated equally, steady life with all you need around you. And to be able to do whatever you want to do!
Spouse: Having a happy family (a spouse, children, pets), being happy and healthy, having a career that that I feel interested and stable income and having good friends I can share my life with!
People living with HIV on effective treatment (an undetectable viral load) cannot pass HIV even on through sex. Being undetectable does not mean HIV is cured. There is still HIV in your body, although it has been reduced to very small amounts. This means that HIV medication is lifelong. HIV medicines should be taken regularly to maintain their effectiveness. This means that if person with HIV stop taking treatment, the viral load will increase – affecting person´s health and making HIV transmittable again. People living with HIV on treatment can live healthy and wholesome, regular lives.