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Understanding Relative risk

Sep 8, 2000

I am a recently divorced person getting back into the dating scene after some time. I am HIV negative and have begun a relationship with a woman. We have become sexually involved and I am trying to understand my risks so that I can make an informed decision. She has had 4 partners in the last year (2 were one night affairs with people she knew). She was tested for HIV recently (about 3-4 weeks after her last possible exposure with a previous boyfriend (oral sex with ejaculation), and prior she had oral sex (not to ejaculation) 9 weeks prior to her test. Specifically, I am interested to know how much faith I can have in her negative test result based upon the circumstances outlined. I am not looking for absolutes, instead, I am trying to put risks in perspective and make good decisions. Can you help?

Response from Mr. Kull

There is no better answer to your question than an HIV antibody test at three months and using a condom for sex instead of guessing.

In the United States, a woman who has not shared injection needles and has not had sexual contact with a needle-sharing person or a man who had sex with a man is generally at low-risk. That's epidemiology. Reality informs us that we don't always know who or what our partners are doing, and that guessing is not the safest bet.

In HIV counseling sessions, I often ask people to look at the facts and then trust their feelings before making decisions with partners. People who have unprotected sex while they feel unsure of their partner's status may feel anxious or regretful, regardless of the actual risk involved.


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