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It is important to have conversations with your partner about safer sex and healthy relationships, but that can be a lot easier said than done. Worried about how your new or existing guy is going to react? You’re not alone, many men have those fears. Check out the advice below from other men on how to make these conversations work. These are just suggestions collected from some gay and bisexual men.

It can be awkward!

photo of two men talking Yeah, you’re right it can be awkward sometimes. Try to approach the situation with confidence. Chances are if you’re confident and bring it up without judgment, your partner will be open to the discussion. For all you know, he could be just as worried as you to bring it up. Just remember, nearly everyone who is having sex will have this conversation at some point, and many other guys before you have already done it.

Here are some tips that other guys have found helpful in having these conversations:

  • Don’t wait until the heat of the moment to start talking about HIV. It’s better to talk about it earlier rather than later—certainly before you have sex.
  • Some men who are living with HIV have suggested that it helps to talk about their status earlier in the relationship rather than later. Disclosing you are HIV-positive after you’ve become close to someone can cause your partner to feel as though you have kept something important from him.
  • If you’re looking for a way to start talking, show him this web page. Watch the videos together, talk about the campaign and use it as a way to start the conversation. Approaching the conversation this way doesn’t make it sound like you don’t trust him, but rather you’ve been reading about it, heard about it, were talking to a friend who brought it up, etc., and because you care, you want to make sure you’re both protected.
  • Don’t force it. Find the right time and place to have a conversation. You can schedule a time to talk or have spontaneous conversations in a setting where you are comfortable.
  • Try scheduling regular check-ins, or ‘talkiversaries.’ The key to a healthy relationship is having an open dialogue throughout the relationship. It can be hard to find the right time to bring these things up. If you agree to schedule them in advance, no one has to wonder about the timing of the conversations.
  • A conversation does not have to be face-to-face. Whether you talk, type, or text what is important is that you start the conversation about HIV.

With all that in mind check out the conversation starters below organized by topic:

Testing

  • photo of man talking on phoneI got tested for HIV and other stuff the first time about a year ago, have you ever been tested?
  • I’ve never been tested for HIV and I’m kind of nervous to do it. Will you go with me?
  • I know we haven’t talked about this yet, but just so you know, I got tested for HIV last [week/month/whatever]. My test came back negative, and ever since I got the results I’ve committed to playing it safe. When was the last time you were tested?
  • So, when was the last time you were tested for HIV? How often do you get tested for HIV and other STDs? I was tested recently, but think we should probably go together to be on the safe side. What do you think?
  • I read something that said we should be getting tested for HIV at least annually, or even more often. How often do you get tested? Where do you get tested? Want to go together?
  • I saw this mobile HIV testing truck last week, and it made me realize we haven’t talked about HIV yet. When was the last time you were tested?
  • Before we take things to the next level, I think we should get tested for HIV. No matter the results, at least we’ll know how to keep each other safe and healthy.
  • Have you heard about the new home HIV test? Do you want to try a home test with me?
  • I was listening to the radio today and they said that you can get your HIV test results in as little as 20 minutes. I’m thinking about going. Will you go with me?

Talking About Your Status

  • photo of two men talkingI was online earlier and saw a post about the importance of knowing your HIV status. Do you know yours?
  • Since the last time you were tested have you had sex or shared needles with anyone?
  • I don’t care whether you are positive or negative, it is not going to change how I feel about you, but we need to talk about it so we can come up with ways to keep each other healthy. What’s your HIV status?
  • I always ask people that I am starting to date about their HIV status. What is your status?
  • I am HIV negative and I want to stay that way. I really like you and want to get to know you better. Let’s talk about safer sex and ways to protect each other.
  • I am glad we decided to talk about HIV. I tested negative for HIV three months ago. Do you know your HIV status?
  • I tested HIV negative six months ago. Let’s talk about getting tested together and practicing safer sex.

Revealing Your HIV-positive Status

  • There’s something I want to tell you, I’ve been living with HIV since [xx year]. Have you ever dated someone with HIV?
  • About a year ago, I found out that I’m HIV-positive. Since then, I’ve been taking HIV medication consistently and correctly. The virus is controlled and at undetectable levels, and I feel good. Let’s start talking about ways to keep each other healthy and safe. When was the last time you were tested for HIV?
  • I really like you, and like where this is going, but before we go any further, there’s something I want to tell you. I’m HIV-positive.

Learning That Your Partner is Positive

  • Thanks for telling me you are HIV-positive. I really appreciate you sharing that important information with me. I really like you and I want to make sure that we keep each other healthy. Let’s talk about our options for safer sex.
  • I am glad we’re having this conversation. I am relieved you know that I am living with HIV and am thankful that you shared with me that you are HIV-positive, too. Let’s talk about how we can help each other stay healthy.
  • Thanks for feeling close enough to me that you could share your status. How long have you known? How are you doing?

Talking About Safer Sex Options

  • photo of two men talkingDid you know that there are medicines that you can take that can further reduce the chance of you getting HIV? Have you heard of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis)?
  • Have you heard about PrEP? Maybe we should talk to our doctors to see if it’s right for us.
  • I can’t believe the condom broke. It’s a good thing there are medicines to help reduce the chance getting HIV. We should go to the doctor or emergency room right now and ask about PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis).
  • If we’re going to have sex, we should use condoms.
  • Can we talk about sex? Safer sex is really important to me.
  • You should know that for anal sex, condoms are a must. That’s non-negotiable for me. Are you ok with that?
  • So we haven’t really talked about it, but can we agree that when the time comes, we’ll use condoms to keep each other safe?
  • Maybe we should consider doing things that have a lower chance of getting or transmitting HIV, like oral sex. Doing other things can be fun and are much safer than anal sex.
  • I know we just met and we don’t know everything about each other, but you should know that practicing safer sex is really important to me. When is the last time you were tested for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases?

If You are Living with HIV

  • It’s really important to reduce our risk and keep you negative. The fact that I’m in treatment/on meds and have an undetectable viral load helps. We can talk about how to choose things to do that are less risky.
  • I’m living with HIV, and the fact that we are using condoms is great, but we need to make sure we do everything we can to keep you safe.

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