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Online clinic on sexual health - Jun 2015

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HIV and sharing needles

Postby Nagging Nora on Thu Jun 11, 2015 9:27 am

I’m in my early 60s and have recently met the most lovely man. He’s been very honest with me and told me he was a heroin addict when he was much younger. We haven’t slept together yet but it’s on the cards and I’m worried that I could be vulnerable to HIV infection as I’ve read that it can be transferred by sharing needles. I’ve no idea whether or not he’s been tested for HIV or whether or not he shared needles in the past. I want to discuss this with him, but when he told me about his past heroin addiction he was in a very emotional state – very upset and clearly it took a lot for him to admit his past. I don’t want to upset him any further. What would you suggest I do – should I ask him or should I insist he wears a condom as I know this offer protection. Any help or tips to broach the subject would be appreciated.
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Re: HIV and sharing needles

Postby Dr Helen Webberley on Thu Jun 11, 2015 4:05 pm

Hi, discussing these things can be very difficult indeed, but if your relationship is reaching the stage when you might sleep together, then these are important things to talk about.

You can only catch HIV through sharing bodily fluids, so if he didn't inject drugs then this would reduce his chances.

My advice to any new partnership is to both get tested for each others' sake. You don't have to blame one person or the other, just go to a clinic as a joint venture and do a urine and blood test which will cover all you need to worry about.

I am sure that sex will be much better for both of you if these worries are put behind you. And if by chance an infection did shown up, then it is ALWAYS better to know as early as possible. Even HIV has a great treatment these days.

I hope this helps, Dr Webberley
Dr Helen Webberley
NHS GP and Director of www.MyWebDoctor.co.uk
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Re: HIV and sharing needles

Postby Louisa Draper on Fri Jun 12, 2015 11:31 am

Hi there, this is great that you are making sure you understand the risks before you take your relationship further. It's brilliant that he has been honest and open with you - a good start to the relationship! I understand that you don't want to upset him, or come across as judgemental, or bring up issues which may be difficult for him, but actually I would recommend that EVERYONE has a screen for all STIs (including HIV) before they have unprotected sex with a new partner, if they have had any unprotected sex in the past, so you don't even need to mention the heroin addiction if you don't want to. It's good for anyone to have a checkup and make sure that you are both free of any infections if you intend on having unprotected sex. So why not just say to him that you think it's good practice, and you can do the same to show you practice what you preach! You can even go to the clinic together and both get checked up. Then you know that you can continue to enjoy the relationship with peace of mind!

The NHS provides free clinics. You can find a clinic here: http://www.nhs.uk/service-search

I hope everything goes well for you - let us know if you need more advice.
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