In the previous post, we looked briefly at how a couple that is made up of HIV- and HIV+ partners can enjoy sexual intercourse without putting each other at risk. There is a lot more to mixed-status relationships than adhering to safe sex methods.
Certain self-esteem issues arise and they require the patience and understanding of both partners. Unfortunately, the stigma that is associated with HIV/AIDS does not make things easy on a mixed-status couple. Another unfortunate thing to note is that relationships don’t come with a manual which guarantees a happy ending. With mixed-status relationships, like any other relationship, I think the old saying that couples should be friends as well as lovers is appropriate. You must be best friends to embark on a meaningful and fulfilling relationship, the success of which does not depend on the medical records of the people in it.
It takes friendship to seek information about the virus together. It takes friendship to apply that information to your lifestyle, together. It takes friendship to support each other in moments of insecurity and weakness. It takes friendship to stick around when you know that fingers are being pointed behind your backs and your names are whispered in near-silent tones when you walk by. It takes friendship to not entertain the friends who say: “But choma, why this person? Everyone knows ukuthi uyagula lo. There are so many great singles out there.” It takes friendship to honour the vows “Till death do us part”, in any relationship.
Sometimes the friendship is strong but the will to be together is not.
My view is that knowledge is the best weapon against fear. Knowledge can help us break the stigma about HIV/AIDS. “Imagine an HIV-free generation”. Also, imagine an HIV-educated generation. Imagine if we had HIV/AIDS campaigns which are effective and trigger a reaction from people of all socio-economic levels instead of ambiguous billboards and fancy television adverts in areas with a high illiteracy rate. Imagine if we had a government which truly cared about providing high quality healthcare instead providing high quality performers who bill over R 30 million for a night of partying. Imagine if people were armed with the knowledge that life goes on after an HIV+ test result and that one’s health can be maintained for a long time with an improved diet, access to treatment and a healthier lifestyle.
If you have met the person who doesn’t laugh at your ridiculous dreams and tells you that those silly dreams can be attained, don’t let a disease come in the way of a beautiful thing. If you have crossed paths with the person who laughs at the same stupid jokes you do, chances are, you are onto a good thing. If the person you are with is the first person you call whenever something special happens, you have a friend. If your lover knows your darkest secrets and still says “I love you” with an honest face, you are loved. If you are in a loving, progressive relationship, there is no reason I can think of that HIV should take it away from you.
At the same time if, in your heart, you know that you are not ready to be in such a relationship, do not lead your partner on. If the disease weighs heavily on you, it is better you take time out and consider the future of the relationship. Remember that at the end of the day, your happiness is just as important as that of your partner. You should not feel emotionally obligated to remain in a relationship where you are not happy.
Like I mentioned in the previous post, medical records are a private matter. The temptation exists to seek advice from friends and family about how to proceed with the relationship and by so doing, one may end up inadvertently disclosing confidential information. It is highly advisable to remain within the bounds which both partners are comfortable with as far as confidentiality goes. Those bounds should remain intact and undisturbed even if the relationship ends.
I cannot stress the importance of making informed decisions enough. As with any other big decision, it is key to be equipped with current information and consider the wellbeing of everyone concerned. It is equally important to be honest and communicate your feelings and intentions clearly. Mixed-status relationships are a new South African norm and even those outside such relationships must be well-informed so that they may be helpful as support structures for people who are in mixed-status relationships.