• Does My HIV-Positive Partner’s Viral Load Affect My Risk of Getting HIV?

Yes, as an HIV-positive person’s viral load goes down, the chance of transmitting HIV goes down. Viral load is the amount of HIV in the blood of someone who is HIV-positive. When the viral load is very low, it is called viral suppression. Undetectable viral load is when the amount of HIV in the blood is so low that it cannot be measured.

In general, the higher someone’s viral load, the more likely that person is to transmit HIV. People who have HIV but are in care, taking HIV medicines and have a very low or undetectable viral load are much less likely to transmit HIV than people who have HIV and do not have a low viral load.

However, a person with HIV can still potentially transmit HIV to a partner even if they have an undetectable viral load, because

  • HIV may still be found in genital fluids (semen, vaginal fluids). The viral load test only measures virus in blood.
  • A person’s viral load may go up between tests. When this happens, they may be more likely to transmit HIV to partners.
  • Sexually transmitted diseases increase viral load in genital fluids.

If you are HIV-positive, getting into care and taking HIV medicines (called antiretroviral therapy or ART) the right way, every day will give you the greatest chance to get and stay virally suppressed, live a longer, healthier life and reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to your partners.

If you are HIV-negative and have an HIV-positive partner, encourage your partner to get into care and take HIV treatment medicines.

Taking other actions, like using a condom the right way every time you have sex or taking daily medicine to prevent HIV (called pre-exposure prophylaxis(http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/risk/prep/index.html) or PrEP) if you’re HIV-negative, can lower your chances of transmitting or getting HIV even more.

Posted in: Transmission