My partner and I have HIV, do we need to use condoms?
Julia and I had had HIV for three years now. We often have unprotected sex, and recently, I heard that we should still use condoms. Is this necessary?
When you decide to have unprotected sex with your partner, it is a huge risk you are taking. You are at risk of getting sexually transmitted infections if your partner has one, you can also pass an STI to your partner if you have one, you get a new strain of HIV and lastly, you can have an unplanned pregnancy.
So, do we have to use condoms?
It is important to keep using condoms during sex. People living with HIV still need protection from HIV reinfection, STIs, and unplanned pregnancy.
There are many other STIs that you and your partner can pass to each other such as syphilis, gonorrhea, HPV just to mention a few.
Also, the fact that you are both living with HIV, it doesn’t guarantee that you have exactly the same strain of HIV virus.
Exposure to a slightly different version of HIV might impact your current condition- for example, by making the virus inside you stronger or more resistant to treatment.
Even though reinfection doesn’t happen frequently and doesn’t cause serious health problems to many people, it is better to be safe than sorry
What if my partner and I have undetectable viral load?
If you and your partner have an undetectable viral load that is more than 6 months, it is not possible for HIV to be transmitted during sex.
If you adhere to your HIV treatment and maintain an undetectable viral load, you can have sex without a condom and without worrying about passing your HIV strain to your partner or getting a new HIV strain from your partner.
If your partner has a detectable viral load, it is important to use a condom during sex to avoid HIV reinfection.
Remember! This only applies to those who are in monogamous relationships and are faithful to each other.
Do I still need to test for other STIs?
If you and your partner have an undetectable viral load, it doesn’t mean you are free from STIs. You will still need to test for STIs. Most STIs don’t show symptoms and the only way you can tell if you or your partner has an STI is through testing.
What about pregnancy
If you want to prevent pregnancy, it is important to use a condom and another form of birth control. This is called dual protection. Your health care provider can help you pick birth control that best fits your lifestyle and body.