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Husband Positive, I'm Negative

Jul 14, 2005

I married my husband 6 months before I got pregnant. When I was 9 months pregnant with my daughter, I found out that my husband had been diagnosed with HIV (during an INS exam, it was required that he take a test for HIV and he found out 1 week after taking the test that he was HIV positive). His viral load was over 20,000 and his CD4 count was below 200. I completely assumed that I must be HIV postive, as well, even though I had taken an HIV test when I was 2 1/2 months pregnant. I assumed that the test could have been wrong or that even if I HAD BEEN negative THEN, I had been exposed ALOT over the next 7 months of my pregnancy. Anyway, even though his viral load was 20,000 or so and his CD4 count was below 200, my HIV test came back NEGATIVE again. I didn't feel completely sure, so I got tested again, with a test that detects even less than 50 counts or so; a very expensive and detailed HIV test. And the result? I was HIV NEGATIVE. OK, so my daughter was born (and tested negative as well). My husband pressured me to breast feed but I refused, as there may have been some remote chance of me being positive. I have had tests every 6 months since the birth of my daughter (she is almost 2 years old now). And all tests have come back negative (thank God for the sake of my daughter). First of all, I want to ask you if this is unusual, because it certainly seems unusual to me. (That one person can have such a high viral load and expose another person repeatedly, and the other person remains HIV negative). Secondly, I want to ask you about this. His doctor advised us that if his viral load stays low (undectable), we can have sex with NO CONDOM. I totally disagree, for the sake of our daughter and have great anxiety about this. As my husband's viral load has been undectable for about a year now, he is ALWAYS pressuring me to have unpretected sex. And I feel so guilty afterwords, because I feel if I got sick, my daughter would suffer so much. (we are very close; my daughter and I). Up to a couple of weeks ago, we have had unpretected sex (not frequently; we only have sex about 2 times a month because I have so much anxiety about it, I'm not very interested in sex). So, I'm at the point where I've told him, I DON'T WANT TO HAVE SEX WITHOUT A CONDOM!!!! If you can't understand that, then we need to divorce. I have developed severe anxiety problems (including OCD, which I am receiving weekly therapy for). I feel so much resentment for him, for putting me in such a stressful state. HE SAYS THAT BECAUSE I HAVEN'T BEEN DIAGOSED WITH HIV SO FAR, HIS HIV ISN'T CONTAGOUS TO ME. Do you think this is possible? Any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated, as I don't have anyone to talk to (friends) because this is such a private matter. Thank-You.

Response from Dr. Horwath

You are very fortunate that you did not become infected with HIV, but this does not mean that you could not become infected in the future. We don't know why you weren't infected. Repeated unprotected sex is highly risky with an HIV+ partner.

The advice that the doctor gave you (that "if his viral load stays undectable, you can have sex with NO CONDOM")is simply wrong. Your husband's low viral load probably decreases the risk associated with sex, but it does not mean that he doesn't have HIV present in his semen. You are absolutely correct that you need to use condoms to protect yourself from infection. Your husband and his doctor are wrong to encourage you to have unprotected sex. There is no such thing as a form of HIV that is not contagious.

You should refuse to take needless risks, both for your own protection and for the benefit of your daughter.

brotherly love
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