I just think it’s my responsibility to not be the person that makes [my partner] positive. If there was any question of me going off my medication because it suited me health-wise, I wouldn’t, because that protection for him wouldn’t exist anymore.
I think that’s probably why I’m in a relationship where I’m not really affected by my partner being HIV because he’s on medication. It’s keeping him undetectable. Because the medication drops the viral load they’re not really passing on the HIV to a negative person if they’re on medication.
I decided many, many years ago that [sex with negative men] it’s just a no-go, which kind of narrowed my field down to just positive men. I guess I’ve been living a fairly limited view of how all this had to work for me and now I just feel freer. That’s big. The landscape has changed. There’s treatments, there’s pathways. There’s ways forward. And it gives me space for relationships to happen, to evolve that I guess we once thought weren’t possible.
And then that study [HPTN052] came out so then we were like relieved, really, and able to kind of go ahead [and have condomless sex]. I could sit there and go: “These are the facts. If [my partner] has his medication every day … I’m willing to take the risk because I know he’s doing everything he possibly can to keep me safe.”
Oh, I think [TasP] is a positive thing. Especially with the research that shows the risk of transmission is lowered. I can speak as a positive person; the fear of infecting someone else is just overwhelming, especially someone you love. And so [TasP] would help you to be able to relax and enjoy your sex life, enjoy your relationship with your partner.
[Condomless sex] was very scary at first, but it’s something that has to be negotiated as a couple. But now having seen the release of the [Australian HIV Strategy, which endorses TasP] and understanding that this is a common consensus, it’s taken the uncomfortableness away, that fear away. To me, it’s even safer now, if you know your status and if you have an undetectable viral load .
When Sean disclosed he also told me he is healthy and his viral load is ‘undetectable’. I had heard the term before, but didn’t know what it would mean for me and our relationship. I did a bit of research and talked to my friend who works for a community organisation. A low viral load would decrease my anxiety about getting HIV, but not in a way that changes how we have sex. It’s early days so we will use condoms for now.
I’m slightly paranoid about it. But [my partner’s] going, “Oh, the PARTNER study says that, if you have an undetectable viral load , it’s practically impossible to give HIV to your partner.” Even my doctor tells me there’s no risk in it. But I am a little insecure about that. I take my treatment regularly, because even though [that fear] is deep down in the back of your brain, you know that treatment is one of the best preventative measures.
I think that we have a fair bit of confidence around [her] health and, you know, a very miniscule risk of transmission. I don’t actually feel that intimate contact with my partner significantly risky for me to be concerned. I sort of take that as part of the relationship. I can’t see how I can have a loving relationship with [my wife] and be preoccupied with fear about becoming HIV-positive. It just seems incompatible.
I consistently came back with an undetectable viral load so after a while my partner and I agreed that we could fuck without a condom. As a couple we agreed that sex was better without condoms. Being in a relationship changed the rules for us. We both agreed that outside the relationship we stick to using condoms.
It’s natural to want to have sex without condoms because it just feels nicer. I discussed it with my doctor about viral loads and new studies have come out showing that, if the viral load is down as undetectable, the probability of getting HIV is extremely, extremely low.
I currently have an undetectable viral load . The risk of passing on HIV is minimal. We’ve reached a point in our relationship where we’ve decided not to use condoms. We’ve discussed the risk and [my partner] is OK with this. I would love people to know that there is the opportunity and the potential to have a loving relationship with someone that is negative. We need to build a bridge between poz and neg guys.