Serodiscordant Couples


What do you look out for in your guy? Chemistry? Personality? Looks? Body? Or even money?

What happens when he has all of the above, but also happens to be HIV positive? Will you still accept him? 

HIV recap

Before we dive into the topic, let’s remind ourselves of what we know about HIV and the issues around it.

HIV stands for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which can cause AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, a condition in humans in which progressive failure of the immune system allows life-threatening opportunistic infections and cancers to thrive.

HIV is transmitted through the transfer of infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculate, or breast milk. Within these bodily fluids, HIV is present as both free virus particles and virus within infected immune cells. Hence, HIV is not transmitted by insect bites, hugs, kisses, sharing of food & drinks or being in the same room with an infected person.

Something to note about HIV is that when someone has HIV, it does not necessarily mean they have AIDS. AIDS is a late-stage condition when the immunity level is drastically reduced, and the viral load has increased beyond the level where his body is able to retaliate against the effects of the HIV virus. In Singapore, AIDS is diagnosed when an opportunistic infection has set in for an HIV-positive person.

The likelihood of one’s condition progressing to AIDS increases when HIV is diagnosed at a late stage. Hence, regular HIV testing is critical, as early detection and diagnosis of HIV is key to more effective treatment to delay and even prevent the onset of AIDS.

Living with HIV

You would have noticed that in this article, we avoid using the terms like “AIDS patient” or “HIV person”. Those phrases are inappropriate and may even be considered offensive. More accurately, we refer to people as “living with HIV/ AIDS”, or someone as “HIV-positive”, as a way of recognising the difference between the person and the disease.

So can a HIV-positive individual be able to lead a productive and healthy life?

The answer is yes.

To illustrate this, we invited Avin Tan from Action for AIDS (AFA) to attend a recent session of Taboo Conversations. Avin is only the second Singaporean to come out publicly as being HIV-positive, since the late Paddy Chew did so in 1998.

During the session, Avin shared about his work with AFA and the current status of HIV in Singapore, as well as his personal experiences with in relation to dating, family and work.


A sero-discordant relationship is one where each partner is of differing HIV status. Likewise, a sero-concordant relationship is one where both partners share the same HIV status.

So can a sero-discordant relationship work after all?

Beyond the Status

As in any other relationship, a sero-discordant relationship can also have its fair share of challenges and can also work when enough commitment and effort has been put into it.

There are certain sexual health precautions to be taken. For example, both partners have to be consistent in their condom use, so as to prevent HIV transmission to the HIV-negative partner; and to avoid transmission of other STIs to the HIV-positive partner, as STIs may compromise his health.

So back to the question posed earlier, what if your Mr Right has all the qualities you find attractive, but just happens to be HIV-positive? Will you still accept him?

Each of us has our own personal set of ideals of what our Mr Right should be. While some may not see a person’s HIV status as a hindrance, others might think otherwise.

Again, everyone is entitled to their own set of preferences, and it is perfectly natural because it helps us define what is comfortable.

Still, in spite of our different preferences, it is not an excuse to stigmatise or discriminate against people living with HIV.  Increasingly, healthcare professionals are regarding HIV as a chronic condition that is highly treatable and manageable, and no longer as a terminal illness.

Stigma usually stems from fear and ignorance. The only way to combat this is through knowledge and awareness. Knowing more about HIV and how it can affect our lives can help us with our understanding of those living with the infection. The same can be said about being aware of the stigma, and the issues and challenges faced by persons living with HIV.

With knowledge and awareness, we can empower ourselves and others to prevent the transmission of HIV, and help spread the message of safer sex and understanding of people living with HIV.