Valentine’s Day is February 14th! Today is a day to express your love for family, friends, and your significant other.
When you are living with chronic hepatitis B, starting a loving, romantic, relationship and initiating sex can be fraught with stress and difficult disclosures, before an intimate relationship can even begin.
To begin, living with hepatitis B only makes up a small part of who you are, it doesn’t define you. As guest blogger Lindsey says, “Having HBV is only a small facet of who you are, and not a reason to give up on a loving relationship. A partner who accepts you as you are and wants the best for you is someone who will not see HBV as a barrier to getting to know you.” Someone who genuinely cares about your wellbeing will understand how vulnerable you needed to be to tell them you are living with hepatitis B and react appropriately. And remember, your partner might also have something to disclose to you! So, you should think about how you would respond to them, as well.
Although the most common mode of transmission worldwide is from mother-to-child, hepatitis B can be spread sexually. The hepatitis B virus can be transmitted through sexual fluids like semen and vaginal fluids, in fact, it is 50x-100x more infectious than HIV. It is important to note that hepatitis B is more common than people think, affecting about 300 million people worldwide. Most of the time, people were infected at birth due to exposure to blood from their mother, or at an early age due to an unsafe injection or medical/dental procedures, or even direct contact with blood inadvertently exchanged by an infected caregiver or another child while playing. Since the most common symptoms are no symptoms, most people are completely unaware that they have hepatitis B for decades.
How Do I Tell My Partner I Have Hepatitis B?
So how do you disclose your status to a partner you’re about to get intimate with? This can be a nerve-wracking situation because you don’t know how they will react. Also, when is the right time to tell someone you are living with hepatitis B? Sharing your status is an important step to take. It establishes trust within a relationship dynamic. Disclosing should be relatively the same for people who are seriously dating or casually dating.
- Firstly, you should know some basics about hepatitis B in case your partner has questions about it. Bring a fact sheet with you to the conversation to share with your partner. This can help them digest more information.
- Practice the conversation with someone who already knows your status, like a family member or a close friend. Prepare for best and worst scenarios.
- Choose a meeting place you feel safe and comfortable with. An in-person conversation would be best, but you can always do it over the phone: video calling, calling, or texting are all good options too!
- Ask them to keep your hepatitis B status confidential! Your health is your health to tell, no one else’s!
- Give your partner personal space and time to process what you just told them and let them ask questions for clarity.
- Look after your mental health after you tell your partner.
You might wonder: How do I start this conversation? Here are some conversation starter ideas:
- Start out on a positive note – “I’m really happy with our relationship…” – sharing your hepatitis B status is something that is positive because it demonstrates trust and respect.
- You can start talking about hepatitis B to gauge to their reaction and depending on their reaction you can decide to disclose or decide it is not the time or the person to do so.
- Use this as an opportunity to talk about sexual health in general – it is always a good idea to share sexual health history with potential partners!
- Be honest and direct: “I am living with hepatitis B, I take medication and manage it. If you have the vaccine you are immune to hepatitis B.”
Once you find someone worthy of your time and energy you want to date, they should consider your health to be an important priority. To reiterate: your hepatitis B status does not define you. You are more than hepatitis B and any person who you should date will know that.