Serodiscordant Relationship

Updated: JULY 2, 2018

A serodiscordant relationship is an intimate romantic relationship between an HIV positive person and an HIV negative person.

The term serodiscordant is a portmanteau of seroconversion, the medical term for HIV positive, and discordant, meaning at odds.

There are several synonyms for serodiscordant relationship, including serodifferent relationship, positive-negative relationship, mixed status relationship, mixed Sero-status relationship, magnetic relationship, inter-viral relationship, and sero-divergent relationship.

More About Serodiscordant Relationship

While people in all relationships face challenges, there are some difficulties unique to serodiscordant relationships. The HIV positive person may worry about transmitting the virus to their partner, while the HIV negative person may worry about becoming HIV positive. The HIV negative person may also become overly concerned about the HIV positive person’s health and care, which can become overwhelming and stifling. As HIV and the medications that treat it can take a toll on physical appearance, the HIV positive person may struggle with feelings of low self-esteem or self-worth. As with all health problems, HIV itself can also take a toll on these relationships.

People who are HIV negative typically enter a serodiscordant relationship understanding and accepting their partners’ HIV status. However, in some cases people without HIV start serodiscordant relationships without knowing their partners are HIV positive. This realization can be very difficult and add extra challenges to a serodiscordant relationship. Good communication about any concerns can help people in serodiscordant relationships overcome their challenges. Couples counseling can help also help.

Serodiscordant relationships were arguably more difficult when HIV and AIDS were first emerging and not widely understood. However, medical advances and increased education has helped many people feel more comfortable with HIV and the prospect of entering a relationship with someone that is HIV positive.

While there is always a risk of any HIV positive person transmitting the virus to a HIV negative partner, antiviral medications can significantly reduce these risks. HIV negative people have a 90 percent less chance of contracting HIV if they take pre-exposure prophylaxis. Condoms and choosing certain sexual activities over others can further reduce the risk of infection.

Some people in these kinds of relationships accept the term serodiscordant relationship, but others feel it has negative connotations and prefer the alternative terms listed above.


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