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Research shows some people protected from HIV infection
Mar 24, 2001

People with two mutant copies of the CCR5 gene appear to be protected from HIV infection. If this is the case how can someone determine if they have this type of mutant gene?My husband has been infected appx. 7 yrs. and did not know until PCP pneumonia. His viral load was above 500,000 during which we had various sexual activities. I have since been tested twice and have tested negative both times.Does this mean we can continue a normal sexual relationship? He has since been tested and has CD4 counts above 300 and undetectable viral load levels.We miss each other very much,what should we do? Thank you, need to know.

Response from Dr. Little

Unfortunately, the relative protection offered by the presence of two mutant copies of the CCR5 gene is just that - relative. Even if you were found to harbor such a mutation, it would NOT be safe for you to resume an unprotected sexual relationship with someone who is HIV positive. In fact, acquisition of HIV infection following various types of high risk exposure is quite variable and related to multiple factors including: the viral load in the HIV positive partner, the type of sexual exposure (receptive anal and vaginal sex generally higher risk than receptive sex or oral sex), circumcision in men (circumcision appears to reduce the risk of HIV transmission), and several other more complex factors. My general advice is not to pursue CCR5 testing, since this is not going to offer you the kind of protection you want even if it is present, but for you to follow generally accepted guidelines for safer sex. Your physician or a local peer advocacy program avaialable at many HIV community based organizations can refer you to information and/or classes which will provide you with the greatest degree of reassurance that you are safe in your sexual relationship.

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