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Keywords:

  • love;
  • intimacy;
  • risk;
  • sex;
  • relationships;
  • HIV/AIDS

This paper is about intimacy and its role in relationship risk management. Drawing on qualitative interviews with HIV positive people and their primary sexual partners it becomes apparent that a key tension in relationship risk management is the balance struck between ‘relationship safety’ and ‘viral danger’. We find ‘love’ and ‘intimacy’ to be key features of relationship survival, with relationship intimacy and security signalled or strengthened by unprotected sex. Focusing on ‘discordant’ partnerships in particular, we note that relationship risk management is a fragile process characterised by contradiction and anxiety, at once involving risk reduction and risk opportunity. We conclude that the intimate relationship is a prime source of everyday risk management which may be defended, even at potentially high cost, in the time of sexual epidemic. We also note that previous research has painted an overly calculative picture of risk decision-making in which the lived experiences of intimacy and emotions are largely missing.