Protecting Others When You Have HIV
September 5, 2018
Can I Transmit HIV If I Have an Undetectable Viral Load?
HIV medicine lowers the amount of virus (viral load) in your body, and taking it as prescribed can make your viral load undetectable.
If your viral load stays undetectable, you have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
We don't know whether getting and keeping an undetectable viral load prevents HIV transmission through sharing needles or other injection drug equipment. It very likely reduces the risk, but we don't know by how much. Never share needles and other equipment to inject drugs.
If a woman living with HIV can take HIV medicine as prescribed throughout pregnancy, labor, and delivery and if HIV medicine is given to her baby for 4-6 weeks after delivery, the risk of transmission from pregnancy, labor, and delivery can be reduced to 1% or less. We don't know if a woman living with HIV who has her HIV under control can transmit HIV to her baby through breastfeeding. While we do not yet know if or how much being undetectable or virally suppressed prevents some ways that HIV is transmitted, it is reasonable to assume that it provides some risk reduction.
Treatment is a powerful tool for preventing sexual transmission of HIV. But it works only as long as you keep an undetectable viral load.
Consider taking other actions to prevent HIV, like using condoms or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), if you or your partner wants added peace of mind. Taking these other actions can be useful, especially if you
Also use condoms if either partner is concerned about getting or transmitting other STDs.
How Do I Talk to My Partner About Safer Sex?
Whether you have HIV or want to take precautions against getting HIV, here are some conversation starters to help you begin talking about safer sex options with your partners include:
For partners that are both living with HIV:
[Note from TheBody: This article was created by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, who last updated it on July 24, 2018. We have cross-posted it with their permission.]
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