An HIV diagnosis can often have an impact on the way we perceive ourselves and influence our feelings about sex. For some people, this can mean a loss of interest in sex either for a short period after being diagnosed, or for an altogether much longer time.
Some people living with HIV also experience feeling less physically and sexually attractive than before, or may feel less confident and more anxious about engaging in sexual experiences. Sometimes we can experience anxiety around the possibility of infecting our partner, or fear of rejection when we do disclose our status to someone for the first time.
At Body & Soul we appreciate that good sexual health when living with HIV doesn’t only mean preventing the transmission of the virus to sexual partners, or avoiding new STIs. Sexuality can be an important part of who we are, and relationships and having sex are likely to continue being significant parts of our lives.
Taking care of ourselves – our physical as well as our emotional needs – is important for staying healthy and living well. In the Adult Programme recently we held a session on the subject of HIV & sexuality, where we had a chance to explore the different aspects and experiences before and after being diagnosed with HIV. We discussed the way many sexual problems – including loss of desire, arousal, or sensitivity – can be traced back to anxiety, loss of self esteem and seeing ourselves and sex in a negative light.
People living with HIV, as all other people, strive for some basic things in order to lead a rich and fulfilling life: love, affection, and sometimes the pleasure and satisfaction of having sex with another person. For those of us who experienced a loss of self worth and feel less desirable since being diagnosed with HIV, regaining a strong, confident sense of self can be the first step towards a healthy and enjoyable sex life. With the activity Recipes for Self-Indulgence, we created bespoke cards with activities and experiences that make us feel great – beautiful, and attractive. Here is the (collective) outcome of this exercise. We hope it will inspire you readers, to commit yourself and pick one to try this week. Go on, indulge yourself!