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.

127 comments

  1. Emma

    A year ago I had unprotected sex and I have been tested negative. Can I trust this result?

  2. zanele

    I had an unprotected sex with my boy friend which took about 2 minutes or so then we used condom and after few days we tested and he tested positive and I was negative…and now I can’t sleep knowing that I’m also affected. What should I do?

  3. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Thapelo,

    This service is for people who are HIV positive. If you are having problems coming to terms with your girlfriends status please talk to someone about this.

    If you’re worried about contracting HIV, if your girlfriend is on meds then the risk is close to zero. Please see here for more info:

    http://i-base.info/qa-on-the-partner-study/

  4. Thapelo

    My girlfriend is HIV positive and I am negative. It is not easy for us to always use condom 24hr and 7 days a week.

    I am really suffering emotional..is this the kind of life I will leave for the rest of my life . To always look over the sholder.

    I really wish I can find that peace and feel safe and excited to go to my Bed instead of worrying.

    I wonder for how long will I keep non trusting God.

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