Q and A

Question

Why did my partner test positive when I tested negative?

My partner and I have been together for six years. He tested positive three years ago.

Automatically assuming I would be infected already we continued to have unsafe sex. I never went for a test until three years later in 2012.

He was beginning his treatment and wanted me to do the same, but when I went to my local clinic I tested HIV negative.

Can I trust these results or should I worry about testing HIV positive in near future? I’m so confused!

Answer

It is very common for someone to still be negative even if they have not been using condoms with someone who is HIV positive. HIV is quite a difficult virus to catch, so this is also related to risk and luck.

However, if your test is confirmed negative, then you don’t need to continue to be at risk. Even though you have just been lucky so far, this isn’t something to rely on for the future.

Now you know your partner’s HIV status you can still stay together and have sex safely. You can prevent infection by using condoms when having sex and not sharing needles or blood products with your partner. Many couples where one is positive and the other is not, have full and active sex lives for years (sometimes decades) without HIV transmission.

More recently, the low risk of transmission when the positive partner has an undetectable viral load on treatment, has reduced anxiety felt by both partners.

The PARTNER study showed that treatment dramatically reduces the chance of further sexual transmission.  For example, after 58,000 times that an HIV positive people had sex without a condom with an HIV negative partner, there were ZERO transmissions as long as their viral load was undetectable on treatment.

As you mention that your partner has just started treatment, the risk of transmission will be dramatically lower when his viral load becomes undetectable.

Please follow this link to our guide to HIV testing and risks of sexual transmission. It explains the above in more detail.

Note: This answer was updated in July 2016 from a question first posted online in July 2012.


Information on this website is provided by treatment advocates and offered as a guide only. Decisions about your treatment should always be taken in consultation with your doctor.

107 comments

  1. bongnani

    I’ve been testing, I don’t know for long. I often have unprotected sex with my girlfriend who isn’t on treatment. How is it possible that I’m not positive?

  2. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Kavee,

    Thanks for the comment. This is very true.

  3. kavee

    People that knows their HIV status are safer than those who do not know. So please let’s get tested an be saved.

  4. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Palesa,

    Being diagnosed with HIV can be a massive shock. What you need to do is give yourself some time. Breath.

    You mention that you have a supportive family, this is very important. However, if you feel that you can’t talk to them is there a HIV support group where you could go to for advice and support?

    Feeling depressed can happen. It can be made worse if the ARVs that you’re taking contain efavirenz. If your meds contain this, then you could suggest to your doctor that you change. For more about efavirenz, please see the following link:

    http://i-base.info/guides/side/cns-side-effects

    Though you may be worried about transmitting HIV to others. You can’t transmit it in the ways that you have mentioned. Here are other examples of how it cannot be transmitted:

    http://i-base.info/guides/testing/ways-that-hiv-is-not-transmitted

    Feeling like no one will every want you again, is a normal reaction. This is because there is a lot of misguided stigma around HIV. And general ignorance. You knowing your status is a powerful thing. It means that you can take control of your health. Because you’re on medication, if your viral load is undetectable then the risks of transmission are close to zero.

    Many people feel like you feel now. These feelings will though go with time. And just to let you know, lots of people who have HIV are in relationships, and this includes relationships with people who are negative.

    If you need anything else, please contact us.

  5. Palesa

    Hi.
    I have recently found out that I am HIV positive and I started medication right away. I feel like in this day and age no man will want to be in love with an HIV positive young woman.
    These are some how signs of depression because since I have found out about my status I’ve been home,locked myself in and never associated with the people outside.
    I thank God for a very supportive family but I always lock myself away in my room and never have time with them like before.
    The side effects is something that im dealing with on my own, even though my brother and Mon reach out to me I just lock them out. I evennfear sharing things with my son because it hits me every time that I got this virus from a razor. I fear him touching me or even sharing a sweet. This ends up looking like I don’t want to be with him anymore, his 2 does not understand much.
    I’m being unfair.

    Can depression have a negative impact on my health as and HIV positive person?

    I study psyche, and I know how depression can push one to do things they did not want to do.

    I fear I will end up being major depressed to a point I don’t wash my own hair, thinking I’m all alone and who in this day an age wants to be with a positive woman??

    Am I being silly?

  6. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Sasha,

    How are things going with your treatment? Are you having any side effects?
    To reduce the risk of transmission until your viral load is undetectable then the safest thing is to use condoms. Once you’re undetectable then the risks of transmission are close to zero. For more info on this please see the PARTNER study:

    With regards to how long will it take for you to become undetectable I can’t really tell you. However, it shouldn’t take more than 6 months. In most people it will happen in 1-3 months. For a more detailed answer please see this link:

    http://i-base.info/qa/4669

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