Unprotected Sex with HIV: The Harm and The HIV Transmission Rate?

For someone to get HIV, an infectious fluid such as blood or semen has to get inside their body – usually during sex.

This can happen if the person with HIV has a detectable viral load and no form of protection is being used – this is called unprotected sex.

  • The risks of unsafe (unprotected) sex with HIV-infected partners

First of all, we know that in this situation, the spread of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), such as gonorrhea,chlamydia, syphilis, and herpes remains a risk, as usual. What’s more, these so-called traditional STDs are well known to be associated with serious complications.

Both gonorrhea and chlamydia initially can cause infections of the urethra (urethritis) and anus, or rectum (proctitis). Subsequently, these infections can progress to serious complications in these areas and even spread to other parts of the body. In addition, in women, gonorrhea and chlamydia are associated with increased risks of infertility and ectopic pregnancy, which at times can be life-threatening. (An ectopic pregnancy occurs when the fertilized egg implants outside of the uterus; for example, in the tubes.)

  • Are some types of unprotected Sex with HIV more risky than others?

Having unprotected sex with a person who does not know their HIV status carries a risk because people with undiagnosed HIV will not be on treatment.

However, different types of sex carry different risks of transmission. Millions of men and women around the world have got HIV through vaginal sex.

Anal sex without a condom has an even greater HIV risk because the lining of the rectum is not as tough as that of the vagina, so it is more likely to bleed during sex.

Oral sex is low risk (but not risk free).

  • HIV transmission and how to Reduce the Risk

Your chances of being infected with HIV when having sex with an HIV infected person depends on several different factors:

1) Having mucous membrane (the lining of the vagina, rectum, urethra, or mouth) contact with your partner’s semen or blood poses a risk for transmission.

2) Having unprotected receptive vaginal or anal sex with ejaculation inside your body poses the greatest risk for infection. Having receptive sex without ejaculation and unprotected insertive sex also poses a significant risk.

3) Performing oral sex on a man poses a lower risk for infection, but remeber, transmission is possible. For more information, see on the professional site: ( Sex with Herpes http://www.sexwithherpes.net )

4) You are not at any real risk for infection when he performs oral sex on you, kisses you, when you masturbate with him, etc. HIV is known to be transmitted through anal and vaginal sex, and to the person performing oral sex.

5) Condoms are very effective in preventing HIV transmission. Studies do show that when condoms are used all of the time and correctly that the infection rate in mixed-status couples remains extremely low. Studies show that many mixed-status couples don’t use condoms all of the time. Many factors can contribute to these lapses: safe sex fatigue, false confidence in antiviral treatments, depression, drug/alcohol use, denial, wanting greater intimacy, and the in-the-heat-of-the-moment slip. Failure to use condoms consistently (or ever) probably explains the majority of seroconversions.

6) Your partner’s viral load (the level of virus in blood) may have an effect on transmission. In many HIV infected people, the use of antiviral medications greatly reduces the viral load in blood. Recent reports out of the XIII International AIDS Conference in South Africa give some information on viral load and it’s role in sexual transmission. Studies of mixed-status heterosexual couples (serodiscordant) in Uganda showed that when serum viral load was less than 3500 copies/mL, transmission rate was 0.9 per 1,000 episodes of intercourse. The rates increase when serum viral load was greater than 50,000 copies/mL (2.98 per 1,000 episodes of intercourse). Translation: viral load does affect likelihood of sexual transmission (heterosexual intercourse, not oral sex). More studies need to be conducted.

This is a lot of information, so the bottom line is this: you can stay HIV negative when having sex with an HIV positive partner. Using condoms for sex greatly reduces the risk of transmission, and negotiating boundaries around sex and the risks involved is important in maintaining a psychological sense of safety.

This is a difficult situation for anyone to be in. Take your time. You don’t need to jump in the sack yet, and you especially don’t need to end the relationship prematurely. Pay attention to your feelings and try having an open dialogue with your crush.