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Your HIV Positive Partner and You

Not all persons who have unprotected sexual intercourse with an HIV-infected partner will develop HIV-infection. Each sexual encounter has a level of risk (or odds) that infection will be transmitted. The more often that exposure occurs over time with numerous sexual encounters, the more likely a sexual partner is to eventually convert from HIV-negative to HIV-positive status.

Discordant Pairs

There is a scientific term for those sexual pairs where one partner is HIV-negative and one is HIV-positive; this term is a discordant pair. Conversion can occur at any time during recurrent exposure, as it only requires one successful episode of transmission. When searching the internet for information about this phenomenon, knowing this term may be helpful.

Risk of Infection

The odds of contracting HIV infection between couples is dependent upon a number of issues:

The studies done so far have mostly been done in Africa. The passage rate from a positive partner to a negative partner may vary in Africa and the USA. It also depends upon the factors listed above.

On average, the rate of passage of HIV per sex act is 1 in 200. Over the course of one year, about 12-15% of negative partners became positive. Of those who report consistent use of condoms or other barrier methods (bite blocks, saran wrap, etc.) the risk is much lower (2 to 5 times lower).

Know Your Risk and Get Counseling

A personal physician for either or both partners, may be able to more accurately estimate risk of transmission of HIV from the infected partner to the uninfected partner based on specific knowledge of both partners' medical histories.

For persons who are HIV-infected and who have sexual partners who are HIV-negative, it is advisable for both partners to receive counseling both individually and as a couple about HIV transmission and risks.

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This article is a NetWellness exclusive.

Last Reviewed: Sep 05, 2008

Professor of Clinical Medicine
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati

Associate Professor
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati