Safe Sex While Being HIV Positive
Being HIV +ve brings in a lot of fears. One of the fears is passing on the infection to your partner. This fear may affect your relationship with your partner, too. But the good news is that by taking certain necessary precautions, one can maintain normal sexual life without the fear of transmitting the infection.
If you are HIV positive, most likely you will be on ART (Antiretroviral therapy) i.e. the treatment regime for HIV. With ART, HIV can be controlled to a large extent enabling one to lead a normal, stress-free life. With proper and regular medications, ART has been found to lower the viral load of a HIV affected individual to an undetectable level which means that the count of HIV virus in the blood is too low to be detected by tests. However, it may take upto 6 months after starting ART to reach those undetectable levels.
Regular screening for viral load and CD4 counts while on ART is essential to keep a check on the viral load. So, when one achieves this undetectable viral load, the transmission of HIV is rare and unprotected sex is possible with minimal risk. However, using a condom for safe sex is always recommended as a condom provides protection against other STDs as well.
Another way to prevent HIV transmission is PrEP.
PrEP (Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis) is a medicine that can be taken by the partner of an HIV +ve individual to protect against HIV transmission. So, if one is at risk of exposure to HIV such as in case of HIV +ve partner, PrEP can be started.
PrEP is known to be more than 99% effective in protecting against HIV from sexual transmission, if taken as prescribed. It is a single pill to be taken once daily for as long as the risk of exposure exists. The effectiveness of PrEP begins after atleast 7 days of taking the medicine regularly. Taking the medicine daily is important for maximum protection.
In case you had sex with an HIV positive partner or the HIV status of your partner is unknown, you can take PEP (Post Exposre Prophylaxis) as an emergency pill. It is to be taken within 72 hours of suspected exposure for a period of 28 days. Unlike PrEP, PEP is to be used only as an emergency measure and not intended for regular use.
Thus, practicing safe sex while being HIV +ve is important to protect your partner. Condoms offer effective protection against STDs, including HIV.
However, for unprotected sex in a scenario where one partner could be HIV +ve, undetectable viral load for the person who is HIV +ve and PrEP for the partner who is HIV -ve offers the best possible protection.
Regular testing for both the partners is also, recommended to be sure of one’s HIV status. Staying safe is important, with or without HIV.