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 your negative result is also related to good luck.

As your partner has just started treatment, the risk of transmission will already be much lower. Then, once his viral load becomes undetectable the risk is effectively zero..

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

This and other studies led to the U=U campaign (undetectable = untransmittable).

This guide to HIV testing and risks of sexual transmission includes more info on transmission risk. Also, the answer to Question 9 on our most asked questions page:
Can we stop using condoms if viral load is undetectable on treatment?

If your partner in not on treatment or if he still has detectable viral load, then using condoms will make sure you stay negative. Another option is to talk to your doctor about PtRP, which is where you can take a pill that will protect you against HIV. The UK guide to PrEP has more info.

Note: This answer was updated in January 2018 and July 2016 from a question first posted online in July 2012.

219 comments

  1. Steve

    HI everyone I tested negative just two days ago but gf tested positive what could be reasons for this?

  2. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Zakhele,

    Are you on meds? If you are what is your viral load?

  3. Zakhele

    I am hiv positive for 4 years and have had a reinfection, I have been having unsafe sex with my partner is she exposed to the risks of being infected?.

  4. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Morongwa,

    If you’re on medication and have an undetectable viral load you can’t transmit HIV to anyone through unprotected intercourse. For more info please see here:

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

    If your viral load is detectable, then yes he is at risk. However because he knows your status the risk is his and not yours. You have nothing to feel guilty about.

  5. Morongwa

    Hi m HIV positive my partner is negative he refuses to use protection even though I had disclosed my status to him m scared he will catch it coz even if I am on periods we have sex unprotected please share me the risk of this

  6. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Pumi,

    Unless someone has a viral load of less than 50copies there is a risk of transmission. Therefore, you less you want to risk contracting HIV until your bf has an undetectable viral load I’d suggest using condoms.

  7. Pumi

    My bf has viral load of 1000. I’m negative. What are the chances of infection if we have unprotected sex?

  8. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Lina,

    Its highly unlikely that he’ll have contracted HIV. So try not to worry. With regards to telling him. This isn’t really something we can help you with. However, it might help if you knew what his thoughts were with regards to HIV. If he isn’t accepting of people who are positive, then he may not be the person for you.

    Though this may be hard, there are people out there who readily accept people who are positive.

  9. Lina

    I studied all the information though m still confused.m not ready to disclose my status to him.do I have to worry that he might be infected.m worried

  10. Lisa Thorley

    Hi Lina,

    When someone has an undetectable viral load, the risk of transmission is close to zero. For more info please see here:

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