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Is abstience the answer?

Feb 28, 2010

Dr Bob- My partner recented contracted pneumonia (pcp). He was unaware of his HIV status until this 1st oportunistic infection. His T Cell count is 125 and viral load about 500,000. He began Atripla last week.

As a result of this situaiton, I resteseted as well. I am HIV negative. I have been reading the forum on magnetic couples to learn more about this new situation.

My question: Is abstinence the way to go until his viral load is down? We primarily engage in oral sex. I was less fearful of transmission when I understood him to be HIV+ (condoms, etc) but now that I realize he has clincal AIDS, I am much more fearful. Is it safest to wait until his lab work looks better?

Response from Dr. Frascino


Situations like your partner's are tragic, preventable, and all too common! Being diagnosed at the time of a significant opportunistic infection and profound immune deficiency means that your partner most likely has been infected for the past 7 to 10 years, perhaps longer. Had his infection been recognized sooner, appropriate intervention with combination antiretrovirals could have preserved his immune system function and prevented this opportunistic infection. Your partner's story should serve as a sober warning to others who don't know their HIV status or are too afraid to test.

As for preventing HIV transmission, certainly not having sex is one option, but not one most of us would find desirable or acceptable. An AIDS diagnosis itself does not increase the risk of HIV transmission. Certainly an elevated HIV plasma viral load (whether "HIV positive" or "AIDS") does increase the risk. Proper condom use is essential for all penetrative sex, no matter what the viral load or stage of illness. Continue to peruse the information in the chapter on magnetic couples, and you'll read testimonials of how other serodiscordant couples have handled this problem.

Regarding your recent HIV test, you'll need to be retested at three and six months from the date of your last exposure to confirm your HIV-negative status.

Good luck to you both.

Dr. Bob

very worried person
Dr. an eleven word question, I promise!!

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