Sex after HIV diagnosis

Posted by Charlotte van Tuijl on February 14, 2020 at 12:15 pm



In order to get a better understanding of what helps people adjust to sex after HIV diagnosis, researchers interviewed people living with HIV. 

For people living with HIV, sexual adjustment after diagnosis is affected by fears of transmitting the virus and of possible rejection by sexual partners, new qualitative research shows. Healthy sexual adjustment over time is facilitated by partner acceptance; peer, community and professional support; and up-to-date knowledge of HIV transmission, including U=U.

Barriers to healthy sexual adjustment include the persistence of undue fears of transmission and rejection long after diagnosis, which may result in avoiding sex or pairing it with drugs and alcohol. Based on these findings, Dr Ben Huntingdon and colleagues at the University of Sydney propose a new model of sexual adjustment to HIV, published in the BMC Infectious Diseases journal.

The researchers recruited nineteen men and ten women at two public HIV clinics in Sydney and via community groups. Adults with an HIV diagnosis living in Australia were eligible for inclusion. Questionnaires collected demographic information and data on depression, anxiety and sexual satisfaction, before a semi-structured phone interview. The results show that after diagnosis, three distinct sexual behaviour patterns that emerged: sexual inactivity, no change to sex life or an increase in sexual activity.

With the current global focus on early diagnosis and treatment of HIV, those living with HIV on successful treatment are expected to have near-normal life expectancy. This requires a shift in focus from survival to quality of life, including sexual satisfaction and adjustment after an HIV diagnosis. Previously, research into the sex lives of those living with HIV focused on managing the risk of onward transmission (primarily through condom use) and disclosure of status to sexual partners.

Find out more about the results here.


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