For many men, adjusting to a HIV diagnosis will involve a period of intense, changing, and often contradictory emotions, and having to deal with a lot of issues about sex and relationships. Everyone responds differently. Many guys find that having HIV has little impact on their sex lives, while others find it difficult to form sexual relationships because of the prejudices they feel or experience. It is not uncommon for me with HIV to feel undesirable especially shortly after diagnosis. For some guys, adjusting to a diagnosis involves having a lot more sex than before. Having sex is more than just the physical acts: it is about feelings, desire, emotions and confidence. Following diagnosis, you may have to work at regaining your confidence, especially in relation to feeling sexy, learning how to avoid transmitting the virus, working out how and when to disclose to partners, and handling relationships.
1) MAINTAINING A FULFILLING SEX LIFE
The psychological and physical effects of having HIV can result in a temporary or sustained loss of interest in sex. Some men are unconcerned by this change and consider having a wank is enough. For others, sexuality is a huge part of who they are. There is a direct relationship between how we see ourselves and our ability to function sexually. If you feel infectious or unattractive because of your status then your sex life may suffer. Many people with HIV have found specialised counselling in this area useful. Others find that by talking with friends and sharing their concerns they find they are not alone and the problem doesn’t seem so huge.If your appearance has changed through medication or illness, you can look at it two ways: accept the changes and find people who like you because you like yourself; or exercise and pay attention to diet. Body image within the gay community is often more ideal than real,however many positive men have found exercise makes them feel and look better.
There is also increasing evidence about the importance of exercise, diet and stopping smoking in reducing the risks of developing cardiovascular disease, diabetes and osteoporosis. HIV can have physical effects that may affect your sex drive, like reduced testosterone levels. Testosterone therapy is available – talk to your doctor.While often taken for the opposite effect, recreational drugs (crystal, for example) can have an adverse affect on sexual arousal and performance.So too can some prescribed antidepressants. Some people with HIV report that certain treatments hamper their sex drives. Changing HIV medication may be an option. There are medical treatments that can sometimes assist when sexual performance is affected for physical reasons. Some gay men who have trouble staying hard when using condoms find these can make it easier to stick to safe sex. Viagra, Levitra and Cialis are ‘erectile dysfunction’ drugs. There can be dangerous interactions between these drugs and some HIV drugs .Most people go through periods in their lives when sex is less or more important. So, if you are happy with your current sex life (or lack of it) then, fine. If you are not, then consider some of the options above.
“I was diagnosed a year ago, and, at first I was really worried about sex – mainly because I wasn’t sure about whether or when I should tell people about my status. But, I never stopped having sex, and I probably have more sex now than I ever have!” “I was a lot less interested in sex. It was becoming a real issue in our relationship. I encouraged my partner to seek outside sex partners to take the pressure off. Then I got jealous. We went to relationship counselling and I found that the issues were more psychological than physical. We’ve learnt ways to occasionally reincorporate romance into our relationship and now I have no problems getting turned on!”
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