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.
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:
- Sexual activity – HIV may be passed via a number of different routes. It can be passed during oral sex (mouth to genital contact), vaginal intercourse or rectal intercourse. The highest risk is rectal intercourse, particularly if no lubrication is used and there is injury (bleeding) during sex.
- Presence of other STDs – If there are other venereal diseases (sexually passed infections) present they can increase the chances of passing HIV between partners.
- Viral load – The higher the amount of HIV in the blood of the positive partner, the more likely the risk of passage to the negative partner.
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.
To Learn More:
- HIV and AIDs Basics: Prevention and Risks
- HIV in Infants and Children
- Preventing Mother-to-Child Transmission of HIV
- Women and HIV
- Symptoms and Warning Signs of HIV
- Getting Tested for HIV
- Types of HIV Tests
- HIV Test Sensitivity: False Negative and False Positive Results
- HIV Transmission and Oral Sex
- Transmission Risk by Sexual Interaction
- Back to HIV and AIDs Overview
For more information:
Go to the HIV and AIDS health topic.