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want to be alright
Oct 14, 2012

Hi there,

My roommate is HIV positive, he has been HIV since he was 3 and is now 21. The guy has been on ART since then and told me that his viral load is undetectable (do not really know what it means). I sincerely do not wish to move out, because i believe that this is not the right moral thing to do, but need to be sure that i am not at risk. could you please provide me answers to the following questions:

1) what does having an undetectable viral load means, and how does that relate to me as his roommate.

2)the fact that he is under medication should comfort me? what medications are helpful in reducing the risk of transmission.

3)Should i tell my other friends about him, especially since they spend time at my place. again this is a moral issue as i believe i need to protect him from judgment of others, but also need to protect the others (that is if they need to be protected)

4) should i consider myself at risk and should i start getting tested every 3 months?

I also want to emphasize the fact that we are roommate and do not have any kind of sexual relationships or kiss or anything like that. but we share the same dishes, toilets, bathtub (shower) and especially when it comes to food, he cooks sometimes... i really need adivices and let me know if i need to take some precautions.

thank you very much

Response from Mr. Cordova

Hi there:

1) Having an undetectable viral load means that there are less than 50 copies of the virus per drop of blood. This makes the person much less infectious to their sexual partners. Unless you are having unprotected anal or vaginal sex with him, you do not need to concern yourself with his viral load. Asking him how his numbers (viral load and CD4 count) would certainly show a level of care and concern for his well-being that I am sure he would appreciate, but his viral load does not effect you as his roommate.

2) Again, unless you are having sexual relations with him, you should not be concerned. HIV is not transmitted via casual contact. If his viral load is undetectable and he has a stable CD4 count, then it is likely he is in good health. The medication does not increase or decrease the likelihood of transmission. It's the fact that with medication, the viral load can be reduced, which can make a person less infectious.

3) It is not your place to tell anyone his HIV status. The only people he must tell are his sexual partners. He does not have to tell anyone else because there is no risk through casual contact. Furthermore, disclosing someone else's HIV status is against the law, and you can be fined for each person you tell.

4) You do not need to be tested because your roommate is HIV positive, but you should be tested at least once a year if you are sexually active.

Bottom line: HIV is not transmitted through casual contact. This includes using the same dishes, toilet, bathtub (shower), cooking, or sharing food.

I would suggest that you take some time and look through our HIV Prevention Section. The section titled "Learn about HIV" will be very helpful. Good luck.

In health,

Richard



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