People living with HIV can now feel confident that if they have an undetectable viral load and take their HIV medications properly, they will not pass on HIV to sexual partners.
Having an undetectable viral load not only stops HIV being passed on through sex, it is also good for your health. In Ireland, and worldwide, it is now recommended that everyone diagnosed with HIV starts treatment as soon as possible. The benefits of this, such as keeping your immune system strong and preventing illness, means that people can expect to live long, healthy lives.
It also means that if you keep taking your HIV medication properly, and keep your viral load undetectable, you can have sex without the worry that you might pass HIV on to your sexual partners.
Do I have to use condoms? The science is very clear about the risk of passing on HIV through sex: if you are HIV-positive with an undetectable viral load and are having sex without condoms with someone who is HIV-negative, the risk of passing on HIV is zero.
There are a few things to consider, however, when making a decision to stop using condoms:
- For people with HIV, it generally takes about six months after starting HIV medication for the viral load to become undetectable. It is recommended that you keep your viral load undetectable for at least another six months before you decide to stop using condoms. You should get regular viral load tests at your HIV clinic and make sure to ask the nurse or doctor for the results.
- You should of course always discuss your wish to stop using condoms with your partner or partners and make sure they are comfortable with the decision. Remember, you should never feel pressured to have sex without a condom if you don’t want to, and equally you should never pressure someone else to either.
- Having an undetectable viral load only stops HIV from being passed on. It does not stop other STIs from being passed on. Using condoms is the best way to stop you from getting or passing on STIs such as chlamydia, gonorrhoea or syphilis.
- Get tested regularly for STIs.
If you have any questions about HIV and Sex or about an undetectable viral load, ring the Community Support team at HIV Ireland on 01 8733799.
Read more about undetectable = untransmittable (U=U) at www.preventionaccess.org