“The fact I’m HIV positive has very little impact on our relationship”

15 May 2018

Matt and Rebecca

Matt is living with HIV and Rebecca isn’t. Because Matt’s on effective HIV treatment he can’t pass the virus on, and so they spend very little time thinking about his HIV status. They’re far too busy getting on with life.

Rebecca

‘The biggest misconception I’d want to clear up is that you cannot have a healthy relationship with someone who is HIV positive. It’s not something to be scared of as long as you’re informed and educated about it, you can have a happy relationship just like everybody else.

‘Matt has always been very open so if I’ve had any worries or concerns, he’s happy to talk them through it. I’ve had HIV tests with the doctor and we talk about any issues. If he had been more reticent, then his status may have a different impact on me.

‘I would say the best thing you can do is educate yourself and talk to your doctor. If you know what the dangers are (and there may not be) a transmission risk as people on medication virtually there is no risk.

‘The medication is available and people can have a very healthy relationship.’

Matt

‘Me and Rebecca met six years ago and we fell in love. She was very level-headed and had no issues about my HIV status and we moved on from there. We had to take precautions and make sure there was no transmission.

‘Even so, there was never any drama, tears or aggravation so it was as smooth as it could be.

‘To be fair, my status is a very small part of our relationship. We barely talk about the infection itself – all she reminds is to take my pills from time to time and that’s it. The actual fact I’m HIV positive has very little impact on our relationship.

‘Having an HIV status is not the worst thing that’s happened.’

Get tested

Do your bit in changing the course of HIV in the UK by getting tested.

It is extremely important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support and live a long healthy life.

In most cases HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system. Find out:

“We both know Ben can’t pass on HIV”

24 April 2018

Ben and Chris - Can't Pass It On

Ben is living with HIV but his husband Chris is not. They both know it’s going to stay that way because people living with HIV who are on effective treatment can’t pass it on.

‘The most important fact is that if your partner is on effective HIV medication, there’s zero chance of being infected,’ Chris says. ‘People don’t know that, and they still think that even if someone’s on medication they can still catch it which isn’t true.’

The couple is sharing their story to help educate people about how HIV is and isn’t passed on in the hope of tackling the stigma that still surrounds HIV.

‘Being HIV positive shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone being in a relationship,’ Ben says. ‘You can be a couple in a relationship where one partner is HIV positive and the other isn’t, and you can still enjoy a regular relationship and have sex like any other couple.’

The fact that people on effective treatment can’t pass it on is based on robust evidence from nearly 900 couples over several years where one partner was HIV positive and the other was HIV negative. There were over 58,000 recorded acts of sex without a condom and zero HIV transmissions.

‘There can be emotional challenges accepting a positive diagnosis, for both partners, but as long as you take your medication regularly and look after yourself, it’s perfectly possible to be in a healthy mixed diagnosis relationship,’ Ben says.

‘Being HIV positive shouldn’t be a barrier to anyone being in a relationship. And on that basis, don’t let a positive diagnosis be a barrier to being with someone.’

Chris echoes this sentiment and speaks about the impact HIV stigma has had on them. ‘Ben’s HIV status doesn’t define our relationship. If you love someone, you love them for who they are. If it’s unconditional love, it doesn’t matter.

‘I feel very protective of Ben and I always think the best of him. It doesn’t ruin relationships and it hasn’t impacted us – in a way, it’s made us stronger.’

Ben and Chris are just one example of thousands and thousands of couples around the world who haven’t let HIV have a negative impact on their relationship.

Get tested

You can play your part in changing the course of HIV in the UK by getting tested.

It is important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support and live a long healthy life. In most cases HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system. Find out:

People on effective HIV treatment cannot pass it on

6 April 2018

 

I'm stopping HIV - I'm on treatment

Someone living with HIV, on treatment, with extremely low levels of the virus in their blood, cannot transmit the virus to someone else sexually, even if condoms are not used during sex.

How is this possible?

The likelihood of passing on HIV is directly linked to the amount of the virus in your blood. The lower the amount of virus in your blood, the lower the chance of it being passed on and vice versa.

When taken correctly, HIV treatment reduces the amount of virus in someone’s blood. When the virus is reduced to extremely low levels to the point where a laboratory test cannot pick it up, the virus cannot be passed on. This low level of virus in the blood is what is called an undetectable viral load. Different laboratories may have different cut-off points when classifying an undetectable viral load – however, most clinics in the UK classify undetectable as being below 20 copies of HIV virus per millilitre.

It is important to note that a key goal of treatment is to ideally get everyone living with HIV to have an undetectable viral load. While an undetectable viral load does not mean there is no HIV present, it helps people with HIV to live long and healthy lives.

Is there any proof?

Scientists and doctors have been observing this over the last 20 years, however it is only in recent major studies that this has been officially proven through extensive research.

The PARTNER study looked at 888 gay and straight couples (and 58,000 sex acts) across many countries where one partner was HIV positive and on treatment and one was HIV negative. Results found that where the HIV positive partner had an undetectable viral load, there were no cases of HIV transmission whether they had anal or vaginal sex without a condom. The PARTNER study used the definition of less than 200 copies/ml as being undetectable.

It can take up to six months from starting treatment to become undetectable.

This message has the backing of UNAIDS, Public Health England and hundreds of other leading public health experts and organisations worldwide.

OK, so what does this mean for me?

This message is so important because it helps us understand the progress that has been made on addressing HIV and to reduce stigma. Here are a few things you can do to help:

Spread the word

The more people that know about this the better the chance we have at beating HIV stigma. The great news is that in the UK, around 97% of people living with HIV who are diagnosed and are taking medication have an undetectable viral load – meaning that they can’t pass it on. This surpasses the UN global target of 90% of people on HIV medication having an undetectable viral load.

Get tested

It is important to get tested for HIV regularly as it is the only way to know for sure if you have HIV or not. If you have HIV, the earlier you find out the sooner you can access life-saving treatment and support and live a long healthy life. In most cases HIV is passed on because people are not aware they have it and the longer you live with undiagnosed HIV the more likely it is for it to seriously damage your immune system. Find out:

Take your medication

If you have HIV, it’s extremely important to continue to take your medication as prescribed by your HIV specialist to maintain an undetectable viral load. Adherence is vital so that you reap the maximum health benefits for yourself and also prevent the chance of passing it on to anyone else.

If everyone knew the facts, we could bring an end to stigma around HIV, and stop HIV transmissions all together.

Find out all the other ways to stop HIV.