An ‘undetectable’ diagnosis means that the level of HIV in your body is so low (under 40 copies/ml) that it is non-infectious to other people. You might also hear healthcare workers talking about ‘viral suppression’ (where HIV levels are under 200 copies/ml) - if you have had either of these diagnoses then there is zero risk of you passing on HIV Simply being on treatment doesn’t automatically mean that you’re undetectable and it’s very common for viral loads to fluctuate, particularly early on after starting a new treatment regime. You might look and feel perfectly healthy, but simply feeling fine isn’t a good indicator of what your viral load looks like Being undetectable also means that your body is in good health and that your immune system is working well at defending itself from daily germs.
We at Bustle love giving you tips for how to and troubleshoot when things aren’t going your way in the bedroom. But what about finding solutions to those that inevitably crop up when you’re getting down? Emma Kaywin, a Brooklyn-based sexual health writer and activist, is here to calm your nerves and answer your questions. No gender, sexual orientation, or question is off limits, and all questions remain anonymous.
This week’s topic: . Q: I’m freaking out. My partner of eight years and I just went to get tested together, and he and I came out negative. I don’t even know how we could have different statuses because I’m on the pill and we haven’t been using condoms in almost a year, but I’m really relieved I don’t have it.
I love him so much, I don’t even care right now that he cheated on me and got this lifelong disease. I don’t want to leave him, but I don’t know how to help him or protect myself. What can I do? ? A: First of all, I want to recognize that that’s an intense situation to be confronted with.
We all should go in for , and it can be nerve-wracking for many of us, but most people going in for a routine test don’t think they’re going to come away with a positive test result. And then, getting a different result than your partner can be even harder if it brings issues of jealousy into the mix. While both your situations may seem dire, the good news is that that’s not actually the case. There are a lot of ways to , and your partner has many treatment options that can help him contend with his new chronic condition — and protect you in the process.
1. What Is HIV? First of all, let’s make sure we’re all on the same page about HIV. HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. That’s because this virus , weakening it so that it can’t fight diseases that enter your body and try to take hold and make you sick.
HIV is related to but distinct from Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, or AIDS. AIDS is what we call . If you are diagnosed with AIDS, that means that HIV has damaged your immune system and as a result, you are getting sick because your body can’t fight back against other infections. 2. How Can I Get It? HIV lives in only certain human bodily fluids, and is transmitted into your bloodstream through only certain parts of your body.
So to know if you’ve been exposed, you need to answer two questions: first, is there HIV present? and second, did it get into my blood? This may seem obvious, but it’s really important to remember — you can’t get HIV from someone who doesn’t have it in their system.
What this really means is that in order for you to be exposed to HIV, the other person who could be exposing you to it needs to have it.
The are blood, semen, precum (also called pre-seminal fluid), vaginal fluid, breast milk (only for mother-to-child transmission), and rectal fluids, also called anal mucous. Notice fluids not on this list, including spit, sweat, and tears. Let’s say you know that the other person in question has HIV in their system. Just because they have it doesn’t mean you will get it. In order to potentially get their HIV into your system, you need to get it into your body through either a mucous membrane (which can be the lining of your vagina or anus, the tip of your penis, or the inside of your mouth depending on what parts you’ve got), a cut on your skin (it has to be pretty big and actively bleeding — a papercut or old cut that’s healed aren’t risks), or straight into your bloodstream through sharing needles.
There are some main acts that can result in fluid and site coming together, resulting in a potential infection. The main ones are having unprotected sex (we’ll get to protection tools later) with someone who has HIV and sharing needles with someone living with HIV when you inject drugs. HIV positive mothers can also transmit to their babies through blood during pregnancy and when they give birth, or during breastfeeding through breastmilk. Knowing how this virus is transmitted is what you need to protect yourself against it (if you’re HIV negative) or protect others from becoming infected (if you’re HIV positive).
3. How Do I Know If I Have It? You can’t tell if someone has HIV just by looking at them. In fact, some people don’t know they are infected with the virus for years, because they haven’t noticed any symptoms. To know your status, you have to get tested.
However, some people experience symptoms in the first two to four weeks after they’ve been infected. These are usually described as an extremely bad flu — fever, a sore throat, headache, achy muscles and joints, and rash. This is called , and what’s happening here is that your body is trying to fight off the HIV infecting it.
4. How Easy Is It To Get? . That’s because it depends on a number of factors, including how much of the virus is in the other person’s fluids and how it’s getting into your body (through what site). The important thing to know is that while each time you have unprotected sex with someone who is HIV positive the likelihood you’ll become infected is pretty low (an estimated 0.08 percent if an infected penis goes into your vagina, an estimated 0.04 percent if your penis goes into an infected vagina, and an estimated 1.4 percent if an infected penis goes into your butt), those numbers are true every time you do that act.
So the risk can pile up if you’re having sex with an HIV positive person multiple times. It’s also important to remember that you can get infected the first time you have sex with someone. It’s also important to take into account the amount of virus in the other person’s blood. When someone first gets infected, the virus goes all spring break on your body while your immune system scrambles to retaliate. During this time of primary HIV infection, you have a lot of copies of the virus in your system, which means you are .
With proper medication and care, you can get the number of these copies very low, reducing the likelihood of transmission significantly. 5. How Can I Protect Myself? The only foolproof way of not getting an STD is not having sex in the first place. Since that’s not how most adults operate, the good news is that there are an increasing number of ways you can protect yourself against becoming infected with HIV, while still being able to connect sexually with your HIV positive partner.
Condoms Latex and polyurethane condoms (both male/external and female/internal types) are a — the holes in those materials are too small for the virus to get through. However, the same isn’t true for lambskin condoms, which are more porous and allow HIV to pass through.
Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Possibly the most exciting and definitely the newest prevention tool available is , or PrEP. PrEP is kind of like the hormonal birth control pill but against HIV transmission, not pregnancy (so … sperm transmission?). PrEP is a pill you take every day, and if you do that you can be protected from HIV by .
Post-Exposure Prophylaxis If PrEP is like the birth control of HIV prevention, then (PEP) is like , or the morning after pill. You can start PEP within 72 hours of a potential exposure to HIV — such as a condom breaking, finding out your partner is HIV positive after you’ve slept with them, or experiencing sexual violence.
PEP is a medication course of 28 days, and you need to complete all 28 days’ worth of pills. This solution isn’t 100 percent effective, but it does . A Healthy Vagina It’s easier for HIV to be transmitted in certain situations, like if you already have another STD, or bacterial vaginosis.
So if you have an STD already, get it treated (if it’s curable) or learn how to manage it (if it’s one of those pesky ones you have for life).
Clean Needles If your risk for getting HIV isn’t through sex but is because you use injectable drugs, protecting yourself is easy. Just don’t share your needles with anyone else, and don’t use a needle anyone else has used. HIV used to be way more commonly passed between people who use injectable drugs, but through this has been significantly diminished.
6. How Can My HIV+ Partner Help? In addition to keeping themselves healthy, your HIV positive partner’s treatment plan can also help you stay HIV negative. This is called , and it works because the less of the virus someone has in their system, the harder it is for them to transmit it to someone else. In fact, an extremely exciting recent study found between partners when the HIV positive partner’s viral load count (the number of copies of virus in their blood) was less than 200 copies per ml of blood (called an “undetectable” amount).
So if your partner takes their medication and gets their viral load count down, they are also helping your health! Everybody wins. 7. How Can I Help My HIV+ Partner? There’s a out there and many professionals that can speak to you at length about the ways to support someone who is dealing with being HIV positive.
I’m not going to go into all of them. Instead, I’ll just say that the number one way to help someone who has just found out they were diagnosed with HIV is to support them — however they want. Ask them. If they don’t know, give them the space to let them figure it out, just as you would any other challenge they go through.
Something you can do more pragmatically is help them get into treatment (if they want your help). Research has found that starting antiretroviral therapy (HIV medications) immediately after you’re diagnosed with HIV is . You can also help them set up a reminder system so they remember to take their medication, because it’s — otherwise their viral load count can rise, they can become resistant to the medications they’re on, and their health can decline. The Bottom Line There’s no denying that HIV is not something you want.
If you have it, you have to take medication every day (or sometimes more than once a day) and deal with having a chronic condition. But really, it’s not all that different from any other chronic disease, like cancer or diabetes — except for the immense stigma associated with it. The reality is, many people live with HIV for many many years, and many of those people are . These couples are called (because of their (+) and (-) statuses, which is pretty cute). Pairing in this way has worked for many couples and it can work for you too!
Want more of Bustle's Sex and Relationships coverage? Check out our new podcast, I Want It That Way , which delves into the difficult and downright dirty parts of a relationship, and find more on our Soundcloud page.
best dating someone hiv undetectable means transmittable - “Undetectable”: Your Burning Questions Answered
First off no rude comments. No one wants to hear them. So i recently started dating this guy who is HIV+ undetectable and i have a few concerns. From what... First off no rude comments.
No one wants to hear them. So i recently started dating this guy who is HIV+ undetectable and i have a few concerns. From what I've read the chance of me getting it is pretty low using protection being that he is undetectable. BUT i just want some advice from someone who has been in my position before. I really am starting to like this guy and i could see myself seeing past his condition and liking him for, well him.
Obviously using condoms is a must, but i want to know my risk giving oral? Does anyone know how much PReP costs? (i do have medical insurance) Really any advice would be awesome:) Viral levels can change very rapidly. It takes constant treatments to keep the virus in check, and there's no way to know when viral levels rise...
Viral levels can change very rapidly. It takes constant treatments to keep the virus in check, and there's no way to know when viral levels rise between testing dates, so the risks can vary. Unprotected oral sex has a relatively low probability of HIV transmission, but the risks can be moderate when considered over a life time.
There is only one PReP drug available in the US (Truveda) at this time and its extremely expensive (~ $1200 per month). There is no generic version available in the US, but the drug is just a combination of two other drugs and maybe (?) generic versions of those drugs are available. Generic Tuveda should become available within 2 years. Generics will probably still be somewhat expensive, but no where near the current cost. Oral sex has a fairly low risk, but if you're doing it unprotected make sure he has been continuing his medication and make sure there are no open cuts...
Oral sex has a fairly low risk, but if you're doing it unprotected make sure he has been continuing his medication and make sure there are no open cuts or sores in your mouth. Either spit or swallow immediately, don't hold it in your mouth. PReP, like formerly_bob says, is very expensive even with insurance.
As long as you're using condoms for vaginal/anal intercourse and he continues his medication and gets regular checkups, and you also regularly get tested just to be sure, you should be fine. Asking costs 5 points and then choosing a best answer earns you 3 points! Questions must follow • Media upload failed. You can try again to add the media or go ahead and post the answer • Media upload failed. You can try again to add the media or go ahead and post the question • Uploaded image is less than minimum required 320x240 pixels size.
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FAST FACTS • A person living with HIV is considered to have an ‘undetectable’ viral load when antiretroviral treatment has brought the level of virus in their body to such low levels that blood tests cannot detect it. • There is no risk of passing on HIV if your doctor has confirmed that you are undetectable (or virally suppressed), you continue taking your treatment and attend regular viral load monitoring appointments. Undetectable = Untransmittable.
• Being undetectable isn’t a constant state and if you stop taking your medication then your viral load will go back up again. You might have noticed that ‘undetectable’ has become a bit of a buzzword, and there’s a reason why it’s becoming a popular term among people living with HIV.
As the name suggests, an undetectable occurs in people living with HIV when the virus exists in such small quantities that it can’t be detected by standard blood tests. Many people living with HIV can achieve an undetectable viral load by adhering to over a period of at least six months. Evidence has shown that as long as you continue to have your viral load monitored by a health professional to confirm that you are undetectable, then there is zero risk of you to others and your health will not be affected by HIV. Undetectable = Untransmittable.
Here we look at what it means to be undetectable if you are living with HIV, or if you are HIV-negative but are having sex with someone who is undetectable… Why it’s important to have your viral load checked ‘Viral load’ refers to the amount of virus in the blood. It is measured by a simple blood test which also shows how well antiretroviral treatment is working at protecting your immune system from other potential illnesses. An ‘undetectable’ diagnosis means that the level of HIV in your body is so low (under 40 copies/ml) that it is non-infectious to other people.
You might also hear healthcare workers talking about ‘viral suppression’ (where HIV levels are under 200 copies/ml) - if you have had either of these diagnoses then there is zero risk of you passing on HIV. It usually takes the body a while to adjust to new medicines, and the same goes for HIV treatment. Simply being on treatment doesn’t automatically mean that you’re undetectable and it’s very common for viral loads to fluctuate, particularly early on after starting a new treatment regime.
You might look and feel perfectly healthy, but simply feeling fine isn’t a good indicator of what your viral load looks like. The only way to know that you are undetectable is through regular viral load monitoring. It’s recommended that you should be taking treatment for at least six months, and then have your viral load monitored every 2-4 months by a healthcare professional to know that you are undetectable.
It’s important to remember that, even if you have an undetectable viral load, HIV is still present in your body. This means that if you stop taking treatment then your viral load can increase – affecting your long-term health and making HIV transmittable again. Can everyone living with HIV achieve an undetectable viral load? Not everyone living with HIV can achieve an undetectable viral load and this is usually down to factors out of someone’s control.
For some people, it might be tricky to find a treatment regime that agrees with them. While in some places, viral load testing may not always be readily available. If this is the case for you, it’s essential that you still take your medication exactly as prescribed and that you keep regular appointments with your doctor.
While you may not be ‘undetectable’, you can still remain healthy. If you’re not sure about your viral load status then there are still other ways to reduce the risk of HIV transmission among your sexual partners.
Your partners may want to consider taking to keep themselves HIV-negative. Using will prevent both HIV transmission and other . If you aren’t able to get your viral load monitored regularly, it’s important not to assume that you are undetectable. I’m ‘undetectable’, what does this mean for me?
Of course, if you are able to remain undetectable under the correct treatment and monitoring pattern, the great news is that you don’t have to worry about passing HIV onto your sexual partners! Being undetectable also means that your body is in good health and that your immune system is working well at defending itself from daily germs.
Maintaining your treatment and monitoring routine is key to remaining undetectable, but is also a good way to ensure that you stay healthy. can be a tricky conversation to have, but you might want to explain what ‘undetectable’ means to your sexual partners as it can help to put their mind at ease as well as yours.
Having this discussion may impact your decision to stop using condoms as your main form of protection during sex. However, it’s still a good idea to speak to your doctor or health professional before changing your protection routine. You should also keep in mind that while being undetectable stops the transmission of HIV it doesn’t stop unwanted pregnancies or the transmission of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
What does ‘undetectable’ mean if you are HIV negative? If you're HIV-negative and your current sexual partner is living with HIV and has an undetectable viral load, then there is no risk of sexual transmission of HIV. You and your partner might decide to stop using condoms, but you should never feel pressured into changing your existing protection routine if it’s one that works for you. You may actually find it reassuring to take control over your own sexual health and wellbeing.
Even if your partner is undetectable, condoms are still the only form of protection that also prevent other STIs and unwanted pregnancies. You may also want to look into as an extra precaution against HIV. Whatever decision you make about protection, it is still best to regularly to check that your status remains negative. Photo credit: ©iStock.com/svetikd. Photos are used for illustrative purposes.
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HIV - How it Affects Dating and When To Tell Your Partner