Protecting One’s Partner After an HIV Diagnosis

An HIV diagnosis affects every area of one’s life. Changes must be made to ensure the disease isn’t transmitted to others, intentionally or unintentionally. One area where this is of concern is in one’s intimate relationships. Many HIV positive singles worry this part of their life is over for good, yet this isn’t the case. Individuals with HIV can still engage in intimate relationships, if certain steps are taken. How can one go about protecting their partner in this situation?

Many fail to realize that the risk of HIV transmission is directly related to the patient’s viral load. When the viral load is very high, the risk of transmission increases. With the proper HIV treatment, research studies have consistently show the risk of transmission decreases greatly, if it is not eliminated completely. In situations such as this, the treatment protocol must be followed exactly, neither partner may be infected with any STIs, and the person infected with HIV must have a viral load that is undetectable for six months or more.

HIV treatment works to lower the viral load in fluids exchanged during intimate relations. Other steps may also be taken to lower the transmission risk, and it is best to speak to one’s doctor about these measures and when they are and are not needed. If the treatment protocol isn’t followed exactly, the viral load may increase and other measures must be used until the viral load drops again.

One major study found that HIV treatment, when properly followed, reduces this risk by 96 percent, among monogamous heterosexual couples. This study failed to look at homosexual men, yet what little research has been done shows the risk of transmission for all groups is related to the viral load. As a result, many now feel comfortable having intimate relations without using additional measures, when their viral load is undetectable and has been for six months or longer.

Consider the above and speak to the treating physician to determine the risk of transmission. The treating physician assesses the risk and makes recommendations. An HIV diagnosis doesn’t have to mean one can no longer engage in intimate relations. All this means is care must be taken to protect one’s partner when doing so.