How HIV is transmitted and it’s prevention

How do I ensure I do not transmit HIV to anyone around me?

If you have been tested positive for HIV and are worried about transmitting the virus to those around you (family, friends, care providers, partners, colleagues, etc), here’s what you need to know:

  • HIV is NOT transmitted if you hug, shake hands, share toilets, share dishes, or closed-mouth or “social” kissing with someone who is HIV-negative. Only certain body fluids—blood, semen, pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk—from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV.
  • Educate yourself about HIV/AIDS, so you are equipped to clear out any concerns or misconceptions people might have around transmission of HIV.
  • Take your HIV medication regularly and as prescribed by your doctor. Always keep your medication with you so that even if you’re traveling, you won’t have to miss a dose.
  • Get tested regularly for viral load to know how likely you are to transmit the virus. [Viral load is the amount of HIV in the blood of someone who is HIV-positive. Undetectable viral load is when the amount of HIV in the blood is so low that it can’t be measured. The higher someone’s viral load, the more likely that person is to transmit HIV.]
  • Follow hygiene methods like handwashing, maintaining personal articles like razorblades/razors, and keeping a check on any broken skin or cuts you might develop, causing transmission of infected bodily fluids.
  • Use condoms with a water-based lubricant to avoid passing on HIV and protect you and your partners from STDs. There is a low risk of passing on HIV through oral sex but using a condom or dental dams will also protect you and your partners from HIV and other STDs.
  • Accidents can happen. If you think you may have exposed another person to HIV, then they can take PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) within 72 hours of exposure. To find out if the person is eligible for PEP treatment or not, it is crucial to consult a doctor immediately. (link to pep page)

I am HIV+. Does that mean I cannot have children now and never start a family?

One of the most common questions from those who learn they are HIV-positive is whether they can still have kids. Here’s what you need to know:

Many (heterosexual) couples, one of whom is HIV positive and the other person is not, have children. This requires careful planning to ensure a safe and successful pregnancy. It is essential to plan to prevent HIV from passing to the HIV-negative partner (or to the baby). Couples can also apply for child adoption.
Many gay couples, in which one person is HIV positive and the other person isn’t, want to have children, and they cannot legally adopt a child (in India). Either one of you can apply for adoption as a single man. Check out the eligibility criteria for prospective adoptive parents at CARA

It is legal for single HIV positive men (irrespective of sexuality) to adopt a child, but they might find it a bit difficult to get through with the adoption process because of the social stigma attached to HIV/AIDS and misinformation in the society about the virus.

Can I have safe sex with my negative partner?

If you are regular on ART and have undetectable viral load, then the theoretical risk of transmission of HIV to your negative partner through unsafe anal sex is close to zero. Risk can be further reduced if the negative partner is on PrEP.
But please remember, undetectable is a status you can be sure of only after 2 tests of viral load, 3 months apart, are undetectable. Also, it is not a permanent status and fluctuation in viral load (Blips) are possible. And irregular medications can increase viral load and put you and your partner at health risk.