Events & Services: Partners Testing Together at AHP

You’ve been seeing someone new for a month. You really think he’s someone you could have a future with. In the past, if you met a guy you liked, you would make sure he had tested recently, and each of you would go get a test. But this guy is different. From the start, you’ve been able to talk honestly and openly with each other. You both figure that just maybe if you’re going to share a life, you could be there for each other during the HIV testing experience.

Now you can. AHP used to offer only individual counseling and testing, and people in relationships (couples or more than two people) may still test individually. But now they have the option of testing together.

The AHP couples testing counselor providing a safe space to discuss "what if's."

What defines a couple or relationship for us? It’s simple: if two or more people define themselves as a couple (or in a multi-person relationship), then they can test together. Simply ask for “couples counseling” when you call 415-502-TEST for an appointment, or when you meet with your counselor.

During couples counseling and testing, counselors focus discussion on the present and the future and limit the discussion to issues related to HIV and STD prevention. Counselors will not discuss past situations or events, so questions will not force partners to disclose information to each other that they do not want to reveal. Instead, counseling focuses on moving forward.

As always at AHP, if either partner tests preliminary positive, the counselor introduces the client to a specialist who helps link the client to a range of medical, emotional support, and partner services. The counselor also helps the client explore next steps. The same is true in couples testing; either partner can receive this linkage counseling. The only difference is that both partners could test preliminary positive. If that happens, AHP’s linkage specialist could work with the partners together or separately depending on their preferences.

A great benefit of testing together is that partners have the opportunity to discuss issues around sex, sexuality, and HIV and STD prevention with a knowledgeable and neutral third person. A good example of this is discussing the conditions of an open relationship, one in which partners may have sex with other people. During counseling, partners may want to go over some of the rules they have set up to maintain the open relationship and still prevent STDs. Another example might be discussing how partners interested in experimenting with three-way sex can do so safely. A counselor can facilitate an open conversation about such issues and suggest helpful options for negotiating agreements that sustain sexual satisfaction without compromising health or trust.

Sometimes partners may not want to discuss sex during the session, a choice that counselors always respect. But no matter what topics become the focus of counseling, testing together can be a supportive, safe experience for partners.

You can download a PDF of the full newsletter Events & Services, with all the latest information about support groups and special programs.

Events & Services, October–December 2013