Posted by HIM on Thursday April 5th, 2012
If you were around last summer or at Pride, you probably saw the Hottest at the Start campaign – how could you not? A few sexy couples are a great way to grab attention. So, if you have seen the campaign, you’ll know about the first phase of HIV infection (acute HIV) which begins when a person first becomes HIV-positive and lasts for about the first two months.
You see, the amount of HIV in the body is called viral load, and this is highest during acute HIV infection. A high viral load means HIV is more likely to be passed on to a partner, and explains why a lot of HIV infections happen during acute HIV. The good news is that viral load decreases naturally after a few months, and is usually lowered even further with treatment.
Some positive guys may say that they are ‘undetectable’ when talking about their HIV status. This means the number of copies of HIV is too low for medical tests to pick up. Since tests for cum and rectal secretions aren’t available in British Columbia, when guys say ‘undetectable’, it refers to the viral load in their blood.
HIV is usually passed through cum and rectal secretions that get exchanged when fucking, not blood. However not all bodily fluids have the same concentration of HIV, the viral load in cum and rectal secretions might not be the same as the viral load in blood.
Although this is pretty rare, some guys with an undetectable viral load in their blood may have a viral load in their cum (or rectal secretion) that is high enough to pass HIV onto their partners. Most of the time, guys with undetectable blood viral loads who are taking treatment as prescribed, and get tested regularly for STIs (and treated if need be), also have undetectable viral loads in cum and rectal secretions.
The best ways to reduce HIV viral load in blood, cum and rectal secretions are to take treatment as prescribed by a doctor, monitor blood viral load with a doctor, and get tested (and treated if need be) for STIs regularly. Some types of drugs (protease inhibitors and/or non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors) may do a better job reducing viral load in cum, so you may want to talk to your doctor to find out what is best for you.
Using condoms is still the best way to prevent HIV transmission from a positive partner to a negative partner, even if the positive partner has an undetectable blood viral load. However, for some gay men, if their partner is on treatment as prescribed by his doctor, has an undetectable blood viral load that is monitored regularly and is getting tested (and treated if need be) for STIs regularly, their risk of picking up HIV is greatly reduced, even without condoms. This may be something you want to talk about with your partner, together with his doctor.
Visit the new sexual health resource at www.checkhimout.ca/testing for more information, and consider taking along this article with you to help in speaking with your doctor or partner.
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