While there have been numerous breakthroughs in the fight against HIV, many sexually active people are still grappling with the question: ''Would you leave your partner if you find out they were HIV positive?''
Those who said "yes" appear to have succumbed to stigma and the societal perceptions that have bedevilled HIV for a long time, while those who said "no" attributed the latest medical advancement and available treatment as a reason to stay in a relationship with and date someone who is HIV positive.
'I thought he would run away'
"I will definitely leave. I don't want to be in a relationship because I pity someone, and I think my decision should be respected. It is better date someone who has the same status as you to avoid emotional and physical baggage," said Lebogang Molefe of Alexandra township.
She believes she is still young and far from ready to settle down and commit to one partner forever. Her counterpart, Moribego Madubanya slightly disagrees: "I think the circumstances that led to someone contracting the virus will determine whether we continue or not. Also, it helps when we disclose our status to each other early on in our relationship. I don't want to feel like I was betrayed."
Another young person, Tebogo Setshedi, said she has been living with HIV since 2007. She regards herself very lucky that she is in the relationship with someone who loves her regardless of her status.
"I couldn't believe that he decided to stay after I told him I am HIV positive. It’s not easy to find someone negative while you are HIV positive. I thought he would run away," she said. Although this was not easy to disclose early in their relationship, she is happy that finally she did.
"Sometimes you would want to wait and check how serious this person is about you."
Still a long way to go
She said her boyfriend appeared extremely well informed about HIV, and they always use protection. If they ever decide to have children they will consult their doctor.
Meanwhile, Fezile Masabane – also living with HIV, said she hasn't been lucky when falling for people who are HIV negative. They all ran away as soon as she declared her status. She believes there is still a long way to go in educating people about HIV.
"Many still believe you are dirty, cursed and promiscuous," she said.
"One day I dated a guy who was very serious about our relationship. He wanted to marry me and asked that we both go for an HIV test. He came out negative and I was positive. Although he insisted he still loved me, I could clearly see he was struggling to cope. The intimacy had gone. All that was left was him feeling sorry for me, thinking I was going to die."
A potential stressor
Now she is happy and in a relationship with an HIV positive man.
Her boyfriend Sibusiso Nhlapo agrees: "I also found it difficult to date people different from me. With Fezile, we are happy. The language is the same, we understand each other."
Dr Sindi van Zyl, a renowed HIV expert, also supports the idea of same status relationships.
"Well, I must say that it is easier to date someone of the same status. Living with HIV is not a burdensome thing but sometimes people that are not living with HIV make it feel like it is. Sharing the same status removes a potential stressor from the relationship," she said, adding that she recommend that lovers disclose their status as soon as possible. Preferably before the relationship becomes intimate. – Health-e News.
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