Unprotected sex less risky if HIV-positive partner on antiretroviral therapy | Science News

Support Science Journalism

Science News is a nonprofit.

Support us by subscribing now.

News in Brief

Unprotected sex less risky if HIV-positive partner on antiretroviral therapy

Zero transmission rate of virus seen in study of nearly 900 couples

11:00am, July 12, 2016
HIV infected cell

VIRUS BLOCKER  Treating HIV-positive people with antiretroviral drugs curbs virus transmission, even via unprotected sex. (False-color image of HIV-infected immune cell shown.) 

Taking a combo of HIV drugs can make unprotected sex a whole lot safer. 

Antiretroviral therapy cut HIV transmission between partners to zero, researchers report July 12 in JAMA.

That doesn’t mean there’s no risk, says infectious disease researcher Alison Rodger of University College London. But for heterosexual couples with an HIV-positive member who is on therapy and has low levels of virus in the blood, “the risk is extremely low — likely negligible,” she says. That may also be true for homosexual couples, Rodger says, but her team needs more data to say for sure.

Antiretroviral therapy curbs the amount of HIV circulating in the bloodstream. Scientists knew that HIV-positive people taking this therapy were less infectious than normal, but no one had nailed down their risk of spreading the virus through condom-free, penetrative sex.

Rodger and colleagues

This article is only available to Science News subscribers. Already a subscriber? Log in now.
Or subscribe today for full access.

Get Science News headlines by e-mail.

More from Science News

From the Nature Index Paid Content