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Ask the Experts

Question:

I am HIV positive and I infected my wife. Do we need to use condoms every time we want to make love? Can we still have a child without infecting him/her?

Answered by: Robert Remien

In theory, it is possible for one HIV-positive person to infect another HIV-positive person with another “strain” of the virus, including a strain that may already be resistant to a number of the antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV. It is not well established how often such “reinfection” occurs.

Some couples in which both people are HIV-positive do not believe it is very common, and thus choose not to use condoms. This is a decision that you and your wife will need to make (ideally in consultation with your physician) about how much risk you are comfortable with regarding HIV, as well as the possibility of transmission of other sexually transmitted infections.

The way that a fetus or newborn is infected with HIV is through the biological mother. When an HIV+ woman becomes pregnant there is always some risk that the virus can be transmitted to the baby either during pregnancy, during delivery, or afterwards if breastfeeding occurs. However, there are many ways to reduce the likelihood of transmitting the virus, including antiretroviral treatment for the mother to lower her viral load (i.e., the amount of virus present in the body) as well as for the baby upon birth.

Any decisions about getting pregnant and have babies should be made in consultation with a medical professional.