Q: Hello doctor, I am writing from Uganda. I am living a very stressful life and very worried. I really need your help. My question is that, my wife is five months’ pregnant now. She went to the hospital two weeks ago and she was found HIV positive. I have been testing and they found me negative but doctors said I may be in the window period, so is it really possible to sleep with an infected person who is not on medication and you don’t get infected? If yes what can cause that? Do you think I still have a chance of not being infected because I have been sleeping with her? I am a very poor man. I really don’t know how to handle this situation. Please help and advise me doctor. May God bless you
A: Thanks for writing in. Couples with different HIV statuses s are called sero-discordant couples. It is possible to have sexual intercourse with a partner living with HIV/AIDS and remain uninfected. Several studies have been conducted to find out why and different reasons provided for this include:
- Reduced frequency of sexual intercourse especially in the face of sexual promiscuity
- Possibility of inherent resistance to the virus
- Male circumcision
- Patients on anti-retroviral therapy with an undetectable viral load are highly unlikely to infect their sexual partners
It is important though, to go to a proper testing center to confirm that the results you have received thus far are valid. Generally, if the initial test is negative, a repeat test is done 3 months after the exposure to ‘close the window’. Some may stretch this to a further screen after 6 months. Be guided by your doctor. If you are still confirmed negative, then the focus turns to next steps.
Of course there’s always a risk in having a sexual relationship with someone who is HIV positive if you’re sero-negative. However, it is no longer the death sentence that we used to think it was and indeed, you don’t necessarily need to become infected if you follow some basic rules:
Ensure that your partner takes her anti-retroviral drugs to reduce her viral load and reduce the risk of infecting you.
However, even with the above, you still need to wear condoms while having sexual intercourse with her.
If there is an accidental exposure, like a broken condom during intercourse, be sure to use post exposure prophylaxis. These drugs used to treat HIV are usually taken daily for about 4 weeks to reduce chances of becoming HIV positive.
You can also commit to taking a tablet everyday as part of the pre-exposure prophylaxis. This prophylaxis is essentially tablets used to treat HIV and can reduce the risk of contracting HIV. Remember that this should be used alongside condoms when having sexual intercourse.
Be sure to also test for HIV and other STDS at least once a year.
The fact that you have remained negative for so long is definitely note-worthy…you are one lucky fellow! However, now that you know your partner’s status, you must take every step to remain sero-negative. Knowledge is power!
All the best J