Will you marry me?

How old are you?  Are you married?  When did you get married?  Was it easy to find a life partner? 

In the South African province I live in, if you are a single young adult looking for a life partner, you have about a 40% chance of falling in love with someone who is HIV+.  Stop and think about that.

(Our provincial statistics for Kwa-Zulu Natal are 37% of the adult population are HIV+.)

What does that mean to you?

This is a very real question.  I have multiple friends who are hoping to find the love of their live and get married.  Praying for God to send the right person their way.  But what do you do if you fall in love with someone who carries a potentially deadly virus in their body?

At Seed of Hope, we strive to decrease the stigma of HIV.  A HIV+ person can live a normal life, have a job, and interact with others without HIV getting in the way.  But when you look at having a sexual relationship with someone, it does cause some hesitation.

HIV dies very quickly outside of the human body, but inside it is virulent (very strong!)  This is why it is primarily a sexually transmitted virus, as the act of sexual intercourse happens within a woman’s body.   The virus can pass without being exposed to room temperature and oxygen level – both of which cause the HIV to rapidly die.

I am often asked to give advice to young people – both HIV- and HIV+ as to what their options are for the future in regards to marriage and child bearing.

I tend to give facts rather than advice, as each person is different and needs to make the decision based on their circumstances.

But the facts are:

1.  Anti-retroviral medication is very effective at “putting the virus to sleep” so that it is not circulating in the blood or body fluids.   This is called “undetectable” in medical terminology. The virus goes dormant in certain organs of the body.

2.  If the viral load (amount of virus in the blood) is “undetectable,” then the chance of transmitting the virus to another person is very low – less than a 1% chance.

3.  So HIV+ people can get married and have children.  They are just considered to have a chronic illness – that is contagious if the medication is not taken properly.

4.  If someone is HIV+, they should always use condoms to protect their partner (even if that partner is also HIV+, as there are different strains of HIV and they could make the infections worse.)

5.  If an HIV+ woman would like to have a baby, this is also very possible.  It needs to be done under a doctor’s care, and there are options for the couple (i.e. artificial insemination if she and her partner do not want to have unprotected sex, etc.)

6.  It is possible (although some health practitioners advise against it,) for someone who is HIV+ to have unprotected sex as long as their viral load is undetectable.  And then they are only advised to have unprotected sex during the time in the woman’s cycle where she is fertile.

7.  It is not something to take lightly – when someone you fall in love with has HIV…  But it does not mean one cannot marry her/him and have children.

I will address the risk of mother to child transmission of HIV in another blog.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know in the comment section below and I am happy to answer to the best of my ability.

 

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