HIV is one of the most serious STDs. It’s treatable, and the life expectancy of a person with HIV is equal to that of the general population. However, it’s also incurable, and a person who gets the infection will almost certainly have it for the rest of their life. Most people would prefer to avoid HIV infection.
Will you get HIV if your partner has it? What are the chances that an HIV-negative person will contract HIV from an HIV-positive partner? Can you get HIV from a negative partner?
If my partner is HIV negative, am I safe?
Being HIV-negative means that your partner doesn’t have the virus – the test has detected no virus, so it’s negative. If your partner doesn’t have HIV, then you can’t get it from them. HIV can only be passed from a person who has the infection to another person. Unlike cancer, HIV can’t arise within a person’s body.
However, it’s very important to ensure that your partner is really HIV-negative. This can’t be assumed due to a lack of symptoms, because many people who have HIV don’t have any obvious symptoms. The only way to know whether someone has HIV is to get a blood test, which can be performed at home or in a clinic.
Even the blood test isn’t perfect. If it’s taken too soon after a person was exposed to HIV, then they may be in the window period. During the window period, a person will test negative for HIV, even if they actually have HIV infection. This happens because it takes time for the virus to get established and for the body to respond to the virus, so that the test can detect it. If your partner had a potential exposure to HIV and got tested right away, then it might have been too soon to tell, and they’ll need to retest in a few months to ensure that they’re really HIV-negative.
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What to do if your partner is HIV positive
If your partner tests positive for HIV, then there are steps that you can take to reduce your chances of acquiring an HIV infection. One important step is to use condoms before any type of penetrative sexual activity, including vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Put the condom on before penetration starts, because HIV can be transmitted in preejaculate (precum) as well as vaginal fluids, not just in semen.
In some cases, an HIV-negative person whose partner is HIV-positive may choose to take PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). This involves taking HIV medications daily, in order to reduce the chances that the virus will be able to establish an infection in case you do get exposed. PrEP has been shown to greatly decrease the rates of transmission of HIV.
Can someone HIV positive become HIV negative?
It’s extremely rare for a person to truly clear the virus from their system, although this has been shown to occur a few times. However, most people who are HIV-positive will stay that way for life.
False positives on HIV tests are possible. If a person tests HIV-positive, but later tests HIV-negative, the most likely explanation is that the first test was actually a false positive. In fact, when a person gets a positive HIV test, it’s often recommended that they be tested again to be sure that they truly have the virus before they begin treatment.
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Sankaranantham M. HIV – Is a cure possible? Indian J Sex Transm Dis AIDS 2019 Jan-Jun;40(1):1–5. doi: 10.4103/ijstd.IJSTD_112_15
PrEP Facts & HIV Prevention. Society of Behavioral Medicine. https://www.sbm.org/healthy-living/prep-facts–hiv-prevention. Accessed 27 April 2022.
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