Tania from Launceston writes: “I’ve just met this amazing man; he knows I’m HIV- positive and has no problem with it. But I do. Although my viral load is undetectable, I am still terrified I’ll pass the virus on. What steps can I take to reduce the risk?”
Dr Louise replies: Thanks Tania, it is great that you have discussed this with you partner and “he has no problems with it”. I encourage you to keep talking and reading as more information and knowledge will help you both.
I probably need to know a bit more information to help answer your question. Are you using condoms at the moment? Do you need to consider contraception also? What antiretroviral medications are you taking? How long has your viral load been undetectable?
The good news is that — whether HIV or not — you can still have a fun and healthy sex life. Research has confirmed that when a person is on HIV medication and has maintained an undetectable viral load for more than six months, the risk of HIV transmission is virtually impossible. Indeed, the possibility of a positive woman on effective treatment “giving her man HIV” is as close to zero as one could imagine.
Your fear is understandable, but unfounded. Today, the miraculous advancements in HIV treatments mean people living with HIV maintaining an undetectable viral load are non-infectious and sero-discordant couples (those in mixed status relationships) are able to enjoy condomless intercourse without fear of passing the virus on. This is why it’s so important for people to test for HIV. If diagnosed, they can then be put on treatment that will not only protect personal health but the health of their sexual partners.
One important note: if you haven’t already, you should both get screened for sexually transmissible infections, as in some cases, the presence of an STI can make HIV easier to transmit.
For more advice email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 1800 812 414. All the very best.