Is there any risk of HIV transmission if viral load is undetectable?
Evidence shows that if an HIV positive person is taking HIV medication resulting in an undetectable viral load, they have a substantially reduced risk of passing on HIV to sexual partners. This is great news, but it isn’t as simple as it may seem. When considering the role of undetectable viral load in preventing HIV, there are other things to think about, in particular: if the HIV positive person has other STIs or the flu, which can increase viral load; whether they have been consistent in taking medication; when the last viral load test was and if it is still valid; as well as legal responsibilities.
Using condoms and lube for anal and vaginal sex is the most effective way to prevent sexual transmission of HIV as well as other STIs.
Is it OK for me to not wear condoms with my partner?
Condoms and lube are still the best way to protect you from contracting or passing on HIV during sexual intercourse. This is because when used consistently and correctly during sex, latex acts as a barrier that HIV can’t pass through.
People do often wonder about stopping condom use once they are settled into a committed relationship. It’s great to feel so close and trusting in your relationship, but unfortunately even great partnerships can be challenged with temptation, or a spontaneous bad decision. It’s a good idea to be realistic about this and plan for it in advance – Have a serious talk about the ‘what ifs’. We advise that couples agree that if there is ANY sexual contact outside the relationship, it is condoms for everything. It may be a difficult conversation to have with your partner, but it’s an important one to have if you want to protect each other.
Getting good communication going is key to having a really great, long-lasting relationship – at the good times as well as the challenging ones. If you feel you want some more assistance with this you can access our free counselling service.
Why is unprotected anal sex more dangerous than unprotected vaginal sex?
The inside of the rectum is like a sponge, absorbing nutrients into the bloodstream from food passing through, meaning it can also easily absorb HIV from semen. The cells of the vagina are much less absorbent and not as vulnerable to HIV. However it is still possible to contract HIV through unprotected vaginal sex.
Is HIV present in pre-cum?
Yes. It is possible for pre-cum to transmit HIV via unprotected anal sex. Transmission through pre-cum during unprotected oral sex is extremely low.
If I’m the insertive partner (the top), am I still at risk of HIV if I don’t wear a condom?
Yes. HIV can enter the body through vulnerable skin cells under the head of the penis or through the urethra. Find out waht other sexual activities place you at risk of contracting HIV.