Acute HIV + Viral Load

During the first couple of months after someone becomes infected with HIV, their risk of passing on HIV is much higher. If you have sex without condoms and aren’t completely sure of your partner’s HIV status, get tested.

What is HIV viral load?

Viral load is the number of copies of HIV in a given part of the body.  Viral load is usually measured in the blood, but the virus is also present in other tissues and bodily fluids, including semen and rectal secretions. Viral load is highest during the first two months of infection. A high viral load increases the likelihood of passing on HIV to a sexual partner.

Are viral loads always high?

After the first few months of HIV infection, viral load decreases naturally.  Viral load is usually lowered even further to undetectable levels after several weeks of treatment. Guys with an undetectable viral load have a lower risk of passing on  HIV to sexual partners than when their viral load is detectable. Treatment is the best way to achieve an undetectable viral load.

What affects viral load?

Viral load is influenced by type and length of HIV treatment, following the directions for taking HIV treatment, and the presence of other infections, including STIs. STIs in the genital tract (inside the penis) increase viral load and increase the risks of passing on HIV to sex partners. Most STIs can be treated easily once they are detected.

What does viral load mean for HIV-negative guys? Condoms are still the best way to prevent HIV, even if the positive partner has an undetectable blood viral load. If your partner is HIV positive, taking treatment as prescribed by his doctor and monitoring his blood viral load and STI status regularly will reduce the chances you will become HIV positive from condomless anal sex. Consider talking to your partner and his doctor to reduce the risk of HIV transmission.