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Can't we be used to save other lives?
Jun 2, 2003

My wife passed away from HIV?AIDS over six years ago. We had unprotected sex for at least 5 years during our marriage. I have tested negative in three separate tests since her death most recently two years ago. I have since remarried and we are expecting our first child. There seem to be so many of us who remained negative yet had positive partners. I feel somehow that science should be learning from our experience and using our survival as a way of learning how to save other lives. How can our experience help in the fight against AIDS?

Response from Dr. Remien

It is good that you have remained HIV- even though you had unprotected sex for many years with your wife who was HIV+. There has been some research into the issue of protective factors and possible immunity for some people who are repeatedly exposed to HIV but remain uninfected. There are many factors that can play a role in HIV transmission, including viral load of genital secretions at the time of sex, the virulence (or the strain) of the virus itself, genetic factors in the uninfected partner, etc. "Luck" can also play a significant role. It is also thought to be more difficult for transmission to occur from female to male than it is for male to female, in some parts of the world (i.e., the United States). This means that there may or may not be something unique about you and your history. There are often scientific studies taking place that seek to recruit people like yourself. You may want to find out if any such studies are happening near where you live. But again, many studies have already been undertaken, without definitive outcomes and a certain amount of luck may have been the most significant factor in your situation.

It is good that you would like to contribute to the scientific understanding of this disease. And you should also feel fortunate to be married and expecting a child with your wife - I wish you all the best.


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