HIV And Dating

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Published: Dec 15, 2009 9:41 pm
HIV And Dating

Dating While HIV-Positive: Should I Date Only Others With HIV?

HIV-positive individuals face two options regarding dating: date another individual who is infected with the virus, or date an individual who is HIV-negative.

A greater understanding of the infection, and the use of condoms, has reduced the likelihood of an HIV-negative individual acquiring the virus, if they are in a romantic relationship with someone who is HIV-positive.

These couples are known as serodiscordant partners.

However, dating while infected with the virus poses many questions.

Should infected individuals date only others who are also infected? If they begin dating someone who is HIV-negative, when should they disclose their status – before the first date? Or once a mutual interest in each other has been established?

Internet users are split on these issues.

“Ask Mona Lisa,” an advice column on About.com, has offered guidance to people writing in on this topic.

“Give [the person] a chance to get to know you as a person and not you as your status. Go out on a few dates and see how things develop,” Mona Lisa replied.

In an article published in Survival news, author David Salyer said it is most important to disclose one’s status before engaging in any sexual activity.

However, others feel that it is best to be upfront about being HIV-positive before the first date. This way there are no surprises and the individual is being honest with a potential romantic interest.

By practicing safe-sex, the risk of transmitting HIV to a non-infected partner can be greatly reduced.

A study conducted by the New England Journal of Medicine followed 415 mixed-status couples in Uganda for 30 months.

By the end of the study, 22 percent of HIV-negative individuals acquired HIV. Of those who acquired HIV, 56 percent were female.

Male to female transmission of the virus is more frequent during vaginal sex for several reasons.

First, the volume of semen secretions is greater than cervical secretions, according to Dr. Maria Patterson, who treats HIV positive children at Sparrow Hospital in Lansing, Michigan.

Also, abrasions to the vaginal wall during traumatic intercourse make it easier for the virus to enter a female.

Patterson stated that is it hard to measure the transmission rate for HIV, versus other infections such as gonorrhea. It is believed that female to male transmission in serodiscordant couples is less than 1 in 1000, according to Patterson.

The authors in the study on serodiscordant couples noted that there was a low instance of condom use in the study, due to the region of the world in which it was conducted.

The study also analyzed the role of viral loads, or amount of virus in the blood, in acquiring HIV.

It was concluded that viral load is the main indicator of whether a HIV-negative partner will acquire the virus. The study said that transmission is rare in individuals with viral loads of less than 1,500 copies per milliliter of blood.

Sexual Activity With Other HIV-Positive Individuals

Two people already infected with HIV may believe no harm can occur from having unprotected sex.

However, this is not the case.

A superinfection can occur. This is when a person already infected with HIV is later infected with a different strain of the virus.

Research has indicated that there is a time period when an infected individual is most likely to be re-infected with a second strain. This is most likely to occur within the first three years of infection.

A study published in PLoS One states that being infected with more than one strain of the virus could potentially lead to resistance against certain types of antiretroviral medications.

While much remains unknown about a superinfection, researchers believe that its occurrence is more prevalent than previously thought.

The study indicated that prior research has shown that superinfections existed in four to eight percent of HIV infected women studied in Kenya. This rate may be as high as 19 percent in the high-risk areas of Tanzania.

A superinfection can also result in increased viral loads, according to AIDSMap, a non-profit organization in the United Kingdom.

Higher viral loads can weaken the immune system, meaning the virus is reproducing more copies in the body.

The best way to prevent a superinfection from occurring is to always use a condom with any type of sexual activity. Minimizing the number of sexual partners with HIV also decreases the likelihood.

Online Dating Web Sites

Several online-dating Web sites exist for HIV positive individuals.

Positive Dating is an online service that aims to help HIV positive individuals “make new friends, form romantic relationships, meet life partners, or even receive helpful guidance and advice from others in the HIV-positive community.”

HIV Passions is another online Web site that helps connect people looking for romance, friendship, or emotional support.

Membership is free and members also have access to HIV discussion boards.

Photo by Will Foster Photography on Flickr – some rights reserved.
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