My partner is HIV positive
Happy, Healthy Relationships
Nowadays it’s common to find individuals living with HIV in relationships with people that do not have the virus. These couples are referred to as serodiscordant couples, and the number of such relationships continues to increase as the stigma against HIV infected individuals decreases. In addition, this increase in the number of serodiscordant couples in the UK can also be attributed to the better understanding of the connection between viral loads of infected individuals and their ability – or rather inability – to pass on the infection to uninfected people.
Undetectable = Untransmittable
Prior to the discovery of this crucial link, it was believed that having sex with an HIV positive person would automatically lead to transmission of the infection to the uninfected party. However, we now know that it is the detectability of the viral load in an individual’s blood that determines whether that person is able to infect others with HIV.
A landmark study showed that the risk of a HIV person with an undetectable viral load spreading the infection to uninfected sexual partners is zero. This means that serodiscordant couples can live happy healthy lives as long as the viral load of the infected person remains suppressed to a point that it is undetectable.
How does the viral load remain suppressed? The person living with HIV needs to be taking the antiretroviral medication as prescribed in order to guarantee the suppression of the viral load. Taking the antiretroviral drugs effectively will guarantee that the virus load is suppressed to a point where the virus is undetectable in the individual’s blood stream. When this happens, it is impossible for the individual to transmit the infection to others.
However, the responsibility of preventing HIV transmission in a relationship does not solely rest on the shoulders of the HIV positive individual.
Where PrEP Comes In
The partner without HIV also has a huge part to play in guaranteeing that they will never get the infection from their partner. PrEP is an effective HIV prevention method, and when used regularly, it can protect the HIV negative partner from getting infected by the virus on the off-chance that the viral load of their HIV positive partner becomes detectable.
There are also some instances whereby HIV positive individuals do not disclose their status to their partners. To be on the safe side, any HIV negative individual with a sexual partner whose HIV status they are unsure of should take PrEP routinely in order to effectively minimise their chances of acquiring the HIV infection.
Coupled with regular use of condoms, the HIV negative individual can be assured of optimum health throughout the entirety of their relationship with the HIV positive individual.
Responsibility And Disclosure
It is important to note that HIV positive individuals that have unprotected sex with HIV negative individuals without disclosing their status are liable for prosecution under UK law. This is why it is imperative that both parties be open about their sexual health at the onset of the relationship without making assumptions about each other’s sexual health status. When both parties are open to one another about their sexual health, they will make informed and empowered decisions regarding their sexual health as a couple.