for Veterans and the Public
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: I am HIV positive, and I take HIV medications. My partner is HIV negative. Should they start pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to protect them from becoming infected?
If you take your HIV medications every day and your HIV viral load always is "undetectable" (so low that it is not detected on lab tests), the chances of infecting your partner are very, very low, so low that experts say there is "effectively no risk" of sexual transmission to a partner. But, if you sometimes forget to take your HIV medicines, or your HIV viral load sometimes is not undetectable, we recommend that you as a couple take additional steps to prevent your HIV-negative partner from becoming infected. And your partner may want to use their own prevention method, regardless of your HIV viral load. Preventative methods could include using PrEP, using condoms, and/or avoiding riskier forms of sex.
PrEP refers to a medicine (Truvada® or Descovy®) that is taken by HIV-negative people to reduce their risk of becoming infected. PrEP is highly effective if it is taken correctly and consistently, every day. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends that we consider PrEP for anyone who has a sex partner or injection-drug-using partner who is HIV positive. So, this would apply to your partner. Certainly, if your partner has other partners (that is, if you do not have a monogamous relationship), PrEP will decrease their risk of getting HIV from those other partners. Your partner should speak with their health care provider about PrEP and get expert advice on whether PrEP would be a good HIV prevention method for them. If your partner needs assistance paying for PrEP, there is a national program that can help. More details on eligibility are available on getyourprep.com.
Q: I am HIV positive, and I do not take HIV medications. My partner is HIV negative. Should they start PrEP to protect from becoming infected?
If your HIV virus is not suppressed by consistently taking HIV medications (antiretrovirals, or ARVs), the risk of your partner becoming infected through sex or through sharing drug injecting equipment is quite high, unless you as a couple take measures to reduce this risk. Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is medication (Truvada® or Descovy®) that is taken every day by an HIV-negative person to prevent HIV infection. PrEP can be highly effective if it is taken correctly and consistently, especially if it is used in conjunction with other methods of reducing HIV risk (such as using condoms or sterile injection drug equipment). Your partner definitely should think about whether PrEP would be a good prevention method for them. They should speak with a health care provider to learn more about PrEP and other HIV prevention practices. If your partner needs assistance paying for PrEP, there is a national program that can help. More details on eligibility are available on getyourprep.com.
Coming back to you, we have a great deal of scientific data proving that people live longer and healthier lives if their HIV is controlled with medications, no matter what their CD4 counts are or how well they feel at any one moment. And, we know that your risk of infecting another person is extremely low if you are on HIV meds. So, please consider taking HIV medications -- for your own health as well as to prevent transmission to others.
Q: I am HIV positive. My partner is HIV negative and is taking PrEP. Do we still need to use condoms?
Yes. PrEP is highly effective at preventing HIV infection if it is used correctly and consistently, every day. But it is not 100% effective. Since you are HIV positive and your partner is HIV negative, it is recommended that you as a couple use additional methods of reducing HIV risk such as condoms while your partner uses PrEP. And, remember that consistent and correct use of condoms can prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and pregnancy. You, as the partner with HIV, should start HIV medications if you are not already. HIV treatment is good for your health, and it also reduces the risk of infecting HIV-negative partners.