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Are you sure condoms can keep me safe?
Jan 9, 2008

I have an HIV+ boyfriend. I am negative. We were moving towards the possibility of having sex so I told him about my policy of not having sex without a test, so he leveled with me that he was HIV+. This was heartbreaking to me. I lost someone when I was a child to AIDS and I immediately felt that panic that he would die slowly and painfully like my friend did, so I went to the AIDS Foundation for counseling and I am so glad I did. I couldn't believe how much better care we have available now. I did the training about using latex condoms to prevent transmission but everyone in my life is asking me why I am trying to kill myself. I keep telling them I know how to have safe sex now but they think I have lost my mind to even take the risk at all. I care about this person and I am not going to not be with him just because he has a medical condition but I need to know will a condom really keep me safe? Am I being careless with my health or can I rely on a condom to keep me negative? Do you think it's better just to do everything else but penetration? His viral load is undetectable and his CD4 count is just a little under 700 so he's doing really well. He takes Viramune & Combavir. It's been 10 years now I guess. I am just going off what he tells me though. I told him we could maybe sperm wash to have a baby and he was ready to do that immediately but I don't want to be foolish with my health. I am 35 and a diabetic so I have to be careful not to further complicate my health too. Please help! What would you do if you were me?

Response from Dr. Frascino

Hello,

What would I do if I were you??? Well, your situation is not all that different to mine, except I'm the "virally enhanced" part of the relationship. Steve (Dr. Steve, the expert in The Body's Tratamientos forum) and I have been together for 14 years and we too are a magnetic couple (I'm poz and he's neg). In our case the old adage "opposites attract" has never been truer. We have the kind of relationship others only dream of. And that includes plenty of amazing hot sex.

Will a condom really keep you safe? Well, what I can tell you scientifically is that HIV cannot cannot cannot permeate intact latex. No way. No how. If you use a latex or polyurethane condom properly and it does not fail (break), your risk for HIV acquisition would be nonexistent. That said, condoms are not 100% safe, because sometimes they are not used properly or the wrong kind of condom is used (natural or lambskin condoms do not protect against HIV) and, rarely, condoms fail. Does this mean you are being careless with your health if you proceed on with this relationship? No, certainly not, in my opinion. Life is full of very small risks that we all accept every day. For instance, do your friends who are cautioning you about this avoidable risk, ever walk outside in the rain even though there is a very slight chance they could be struck dead by a lightening bolt? That your potential soon-to-be Mr. Right has an undetectable viral load significantly decreases his risk of transmitting the virus. In the event of an accidental exposure, PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) can also be used to further significantly decrease your risk of acquiring the virus. You can read more about both these topics in the archives.

Should you decide to conceive, yes, sperm washing and in vitro fertilization is available and now widely used to drastically reduce any potential of HIV transmission.

I'm sure your friends and family think they have your best interests at heart by telling you to abandon your HIV-positive boyfriend. Only you can decide if you want to continue on with your relationship. I'm certainly glad Steve didn't say "sayonara baby" when learning of my HIV positive status. Mr. Rights don't come along all that often. It would be a tragedy to let yours get away for all the wrong reasons.

I suggest both you and your boyfriend read through the information on "magnetic couples" in the archives of this forum. You should find the information there enlightening and encouraging.

Best of luck to you both, whatever you decide.

Dr. Bob



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