What is a mixed-status couple?
In the past, getting an HIV-positive result was practically a death sentence. Now, and with the revolution of medicine and technology, HIV-positive patients are able to live normal and long lives. However, if you’re HIV-negative and you have a partner who has tested positive, it is important that you both educate yourselves individually and jointly, in order to enjoy good health and peace of mind. When one partner is HIV-negative and one partner HIV-positive, they are known as a serodiscordant couple or a serodifferent couple.
Importance of counseling and testing together
By getting tests done together, it makes it easier to disclose your HIV test results to one-another. It also helps you to cope if one or both of you receive a positive result. In addition, it makes planning for the future a shared responsibility.
How can you have safe sex?
Mixed-status couples are able to have safe sexual relationships. It is important for them to talk about HIV prevention and family planning together as a couple and with a healthcare professional. They should also make sure that they use condoms every time they have sex.
If proper protection isn’t used, HIV can be passed from the infected partner to the other through blood, semen, pre-cum, vaginal fluids, and anal mucus.
Couples should ensure that they consider HIV treatment options for the positive partner as well as the HIV-negative partner.
HIV treatment for the HIV-positive partner
HIV-positive people can take antiretroviral drugs which greatly reduces the amount of the virus in the body. It can lower the virus to very low levels that they might even become undetectable. This, therefore, makes it less likely for the positive partner to pass on HIV.
The medication could actually start right after the positive partner gets a diagnosis.
HIV treatment for the HIV-negative partner
Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is the treatment given to HIV-negative people. It is recommended for mixed-status couples. It is a course of HIV drugs taken by an HIV-negative person to lower the chance of infection. If it is taken properly, PrEP significantly reduces the chances of becoming HIV positive.
Post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) is a course of HIV medication taken by an HIV negative person after possible exposure to reduce the chance of getting HIV. It lasts a month. When started in time, PEP can stop HIV infection after sex without a condom (or other exposure) with someone who is infectious – but it does not work every time.
Having Children if the man has HIV
Medical studies now show that it is possible to “wash” the sperm of an HIV-infected man so that it can be used to fertilize a woman and produce a healthy baby. These procedures are effective but also very expensive.
Having children if the woman has HIV
About 35% of pregnant women with HIV can pass the infection to their newborns if the women are not treated. With proper treatment, the risk of passing HIV to newborns drops to 2%. Artificial insemination, a simple procedure, places the man’s sperm into the woman’s vagina. This allows pregnancy without exposing the man to HIV.
If a woman with HIV becomes pregnant, she should be very careful to stay healthy during pregnancy. She will also need to discuss pregnancy with her health care provider and how to stay healthy. She may need to avoid breastfeeding a newborn as this can transmit HIV.
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