What Does Sex Positivity Mean?
Last updated: July 2023
Sex positivity is when a person feels comfortable with their desire for sex and how they wish to experience sex. Sex positivity looks different for everyone. This is because it applies to all types of sex, sexuality, sexual preferences, and orientations.1
Studies link receiving sex-positive messages from others to having:1
- More sexual pleasure
- Better self-esteem
- Better overall health
Sex positivity also contributes to safe sex practices such as condom use. And it increases access to sexual health information and treatments.1
However, embracing sexual desire and sex positivity may become harder when a person finds out they have HIV. This is because most people acquire HIV through sex, which can lead to negative feelings about having sex.2
This or That
Are you happy with your sex life?
Sexual health after an HIV diagnosis
It takes some time to learn to live positively with HIV. Living positively includes getting used to a treatment regimen, adopting new self-care routines, and giving yourself space for emotional adjustment. This process is completely normal.2
It is important to acknowledge all your feelings so you can regain sex positivity. Your feelings about the virus and diagnosis may impact how you see yourself and how much you desire sex. People often struggle at first but then gradually return to positive feelings about themselves and sex.2,3
Some people who face stigma about their status may begin to internalize other people's negative feelings. They may think they are infectious, undesirable, and not worthy of experiencing pleasure and intimacy.2,3
Whatever you feel, remember it is normal. But if you continue to feel negatively about yourself or your status, talk to someone knowledgeable about HIV and sympathetic to your experience.
Is your partner taking PrEP?
Keeping yourself and others safe
Living well with HIV can include a healthy desire for sex. With some basic precautions, it is possible to maintain a fulfilling sex life that keeps you and your sexual partner safe.2,3
- Know the facts. Some people you encounter may not know that U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable). U=U means you cannot transmit HIV if your viral load is undetectable. Educating yourself about the latest research, treatments, and prevention methods can help you talk to others about safer sex.
- Reach undetectable status. After you begin taking antiretrovirals, your doctor will monitor your viral load. They will let you know when the virus reaches undetectable levels. Stick to your treatment plan and get regular check-ups to remain undetectable.
- Practice safer sex. Use condoms consistently and with lubricant to prevent breakage or slipping during sex. Explore other forms of intimacy if you or your partner are not comfortable with penetrative sex.
- Get tested regularly, especially if you have new or multiple partners. Even if you are undetectable, you can still get other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Preventing them or getting prompt treatment helps preserve your overall health.
- Use PrEP and PEP. Encourage your partner to use pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) or post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP). This is especially important if you have not or cannot reach undetectable levels.
- Never share needles. Use new, clean needles, syringes, and other drug injection tools every time you inject.
- Maintain open, honest communication.Be honest with your sexual partner about your status, fears, and concerns. And listen to theirs. This helps build trust and understanding, the foundation for healthy sex.
- Seek support. Living with HIV can be emotionally and financially challenging. Find the support you need from friends, family, support groups, or healthcare professionals. They can offer guidance and understanding that helps when your emotions become overwhelming.
- Look after yourself. Make it a priority to do what it takes to maintain a positive mindset. This may include eating a balanced diet, exercising, making time for hobbies, and spending time with loved ones.
How long have you been living with HIV?
You get to define what's important to you
Remember, living with HIV does not define your worth or your ability to enjoy a satisfying sex life.
Take appropriate precautions, stay informed, and communicate openly. This will help you maintain a healthy and positive attitude toward sex while living with HIV.
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