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Understanding the different HIV results that could affect the same couple

By Faeza
10 February 2017

SO YOU have been having unprotected sex with your partner. You go for an HIV test, you test positive and your partner comes out negative. You are confused as to what this means. Though this is rare but yes it does happen. Hence, I often advocate for people not to use their partner’s HIV status as their own. In my 21-year journey with HIV, I have encountered many queries about this. There are few reasons for this. It can happen that each scenario falls in one of them.

INTAKE OF ARVs

If a person constantly and correctly takes their antiretrovirals (ARVs), it leads to the suppression of the virus and a viral load that is lower than detectable limits. Once your viral load is lower than detectable limit, chances of infecting your partner are drastically

reduced. However, don’t stop using protection once the virus is suppressed. The results often fluctuate, just like your CD4 count often going up and down. This is while ARVs may be effective, other factors like stress and infections may cause some changes.

O-TYPE BLOOD

Researchers have identified that people with a blood type ‘O’ are less susceptible to infection. If you are having this blood type, it is very rare to be infected.

CARRIERS

There are people that are called carriers. They have HIV in their system; however, it is not affecting them. In addition, it takes advanced testing methods to identify them. Carriers are dangerous because while results may show they are HIV negative, it has been discovered that they are able to infect others.

DISCORDANT COUPLES

Some couples do not infect each other. One partner can be positive yet the other partner is negative. This is a strange phenomenon. These couples don’t infect each other and you need to note that even though it is a fact, it is rare as well.

WINDOW PERIOD

Once a person is infected it can take up to three months before the virus is conclusively detected in other people. The period is referred to as window period. So if you do the test while the partner is on the window period, results may be negative. Hence, it is advisable to do more tests afterwards to ascertain the results.

LOVE EACH OTHER

I hope that the above scenarios explain at least your case if you have a partner who is positive and you are negative or vice versa. I, however, have to caution you not to use such scenarios to put your lives at risk by assuming that perhaps you might not infect your partner. Always love each other with care and protection. HIV is not a death sentence; it needs our collective responsibility to manage it. Together, we can triumph against HIV.