Testing Open Relationship Ending HIV Culture Artcile

Why HIV testing is important in an open relationship

Testing Open Relationship Ending HIV Culture Artcile

Why HIV testing is important in an open relationship


For Andrew Hodgkinson, getting tested regularly for HIV is a commonsense part of his life - both in terms of his physical and mental well-being.

The 42-year-old Wellingtonian was originally born in the north-west of England, but moved to New Zealand five years ago after falling in love with the Kiwi landscape and doing an outdoor education course with NMIT in Blenheim.

The computer programmer is also a very keen bodybuilder and says one of the main reasons why he decided to base himself in the capital is because it gives him easy access to the wide open spaces of the South Island.

He met his partner Steve when they were set up via Andrew’s previous partner, who was going on his OE, and the couple have now been married a year.

“Jase and I always knew that time was limited so about six months in and just before he was about to leave the country he set me up with his friend,” Andrew says. “We met on Oriental Parade and, of course, got on like a house on fire. I’m not sure whether Jase expected that when he introduced us but we were as thick as thieves in no time.”

Having both been in “quite long-term” relationships already, Andrew and Steve decided their best bet at success was having an open relationship.

“All the wounds had healed from the past long-term relationships, but we both realised how these things can go and so we came up with the idea of trying an open relationship – but with rules,” Andrew says.

“In our case that means that when we’re together, we’re together and there’s just the two of us, but if one of us is traveling and meets someone we want to hook up with, we speak to the other person before doing anything.

“When we’re together we don’t use condoms, but when we’re with other people we play safe 100% of the time. But nonetheless, there’s always a risk with HIV and STIs – okay, it can be pretty small –  but it still best to be sure about what’s going on. HIV testing just has to be part of that – it’s commonsense.”

Both Andrew and Steve’s busy lives mean that being with other guys outside the relationship has been “really rare” recently, and so getting tested hasn’t been uppermost in Andrew’s mind. But he still says there’s a “six-month” trigger in his head that tells him to update his status “so everybody knows – including yourself, because there’s always a degree of paranoia about these things and you’re never sure”.

It was concern about an unprotected encounter which led to Andrew’s first test for HIV, when he was still living in the UK. He knew the risks of the hookup was likely to be low, but he was still surprised at how anxious he felt waiting for his test results.

“I was amazed how the six-week wait to find out my HIV status got under my skin. I’d imagine many people might not test because if they suspect something might be wrong they’d not want to know.”

“And that’s a reflection of my own experience when I was worried about the what-ifs - that it's way better to know your status, either way. I’ve had friends who’ve been diagnosed positive and it knocks them for six at first, but then they adjust, get on with things and start taking medication to manage the condition.

“And so the message is to go and do it. Testing is free and doesn’t take long, you don’t have to wait long for the results and it will be a weight off your mind no matter what the outcome.”

For someone as health- and body-conscious as Andrew, testing for HIV has become part of his routine to ensure he’s always in peak fitness – especially now he’s past 40.

“There’s an element of regular testing being part of my health regime now,” he says. “Because if you are hooking up with people it isn’t just HIV, there are a number of other STIs out there that are just as big a worry. So you want to get checked for those things, especially as they can be asymptomatic.

“But, yes, when you’re younger you think you’re indestructible, and then you hit the magic 40 and that’s when the health system keeps telling you that you’re more at risk of plenty of things, handing you pamphlets and telling you to have regular checkups at the GP.

“Now I’m far more aware of keeping that schedule and keeping to a full STD screening schedule every 6 to 12 months.”

The journey to end HIV in New Zealand will require all sexually active guys to test for HIV, at least twice a year, or more frequently if they are having condomless sex with partners outside a relationship.

Andrew’s advice for those wavering about getting tested is don’t put it off, just do it – it’s better to know.

Get a test 

Find out how more about testing or use the tool below to find out how often you should be testing.

How Often Should I Test?

To maintain good sexual health and to help end HIV, we need to test more frequently. Find out how often you should test.

Are you a man (this includes trans men) who has sex with other men?

Are you a trans woman or gender diverse person who has sex with men?

Are you in a closed, monogamous relationship?

Is your partner living with HIV?

Do you use a condom every time you have penetrative sex?

Do they have an undetectable viral load?

How many sexual partners have you had in the last 6 months?

How many sexual partners have you had in the last 6 months?

Once a year

Based on your answers, you are most likely at low risk of contracting HIV and should be testing for HIV & STIs once a year as part of an annual health check.

If you’re concerned about your personal risk, we would recommend speaking to your doctor and explaining why you think you might be at risk or find a testing service right for you here.

Once a year

Evidence of HIV can sometimes not be detected by a test for up to three months. If you and your partner decide that you no longer want to use condoms or PrEP you will need to be monogamous for at least three months, and then both receive a negative HIV test result.

After this, we'd recommend testing for HIV once a year, as part of an annual health check-up.

Get a test here and/or sign up to get testing reminders sent to you via text or email

Because your partner is undetectable there is no risk of you contracting HIV.

You would need to be testing if your partner experiences a treatment interruption.

Every Six Months

If your partner doesn’t have an undetectable viral load then you should be using condoms or PrEP

We recommend getting an HIV test every six months.

Get a test here and/or sign up to get testing reminders sent to you via text or email.

Once a year

We recommend getting an HIV test and a full STI screen once a year.

With regular, consistent condom use it is unlikely that you have contracted HIV. But, other STIs like syphilis and gonorrhoea can still be easily transmitted through oral sex, rimming or even using spit as lube.

Get a test here and/or sign up to get testing reminders sent to you via text or email

Every Six Months

We recommend getting an HIV test and a full STI screen every six months.

With regular, consistent condom use it is unlikely that you have contracted HIV. But, other STIs like syphilis and gonorrhoea can still be easily transmitted through oral sex, rimming or even using spit as lube.

Get a test here and/or sign up to get testing reminders sent to you via text or email.

Every Three months

Based on your answers, we recommend getting an HIV test and a full STI screen every three months.

With regular, consistent condom use it is unlikely that you have contracted HIV. But, other STIs like syphilis and gonorrhoea can still be easily transmitted through oral sex, rimming or even using spit as lube.

Get a test here and/or sign up to get testing reminders sent to you via text.

Once a year

Based on your answers, we recommend getting an HIV test and a full STI screen once a year.

Get a test here and/or sign up to get testing reminders sent to you via text or email

As you struggle with consistent condom use, you should consider taking PrEP to stay safe.

Every Six Months

Based on your answers, we recommend getting an HIV test and a full STI screen every six months.

Get a test here and/or sign up to get testing reminders sent to you via text or email.

As you struggle with consistent condom use, you should consider taking PrEP to stay safe.

Every Three Months

If you're having unprotected sex with casual partners, then you're at high risk of HIV. You need to be testing every three months.

Get a test here and/or sign up to get testing reminders sent to you via text.

As you struggle with consistent condom use, you should consider taking PrEP to stay safe.

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