Q: If you have HIV, can you only have sex with other people with HIV? Does having sex with people with HIV while you yourself having HIV worsen your HIV?
A: Just for a bit of background information, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that gradually weakens the immune system over time, making people more vulnerable to other illnesses. HIV eventually turns into AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) when a person's white-blood cell count drops to dangerously low levels. Thankfully, modern medicine has greatly reduced people's risk for both of these diseases. People can now take a daily pill (PrEP) that greatly reduces their risk of contracting HIV, and there are a host of medications that prevent HIV from turning into AIDS.
Because of these advances in modern medicine, it's actually quite safe for people with HIV or AIDS to have sex with people who are HIV-negative. It's always recommended that if you are having sex with someone who could be HIV-positive, that you should use condoms. Just using condoms greatly reduces a person's risk of contracting the virus during sex. If you know that you are having sex with someone who is HIV-positive, then it's also advisable to take the daily pill, PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis), which further reduces the risk of transmission. By doing both of these things, it's very unlikely that the virus will be passed along.
If both sex partners are HIV-positive, then there is no risk to either of them if they have sex with each other. If they both already have the disease, then there is no way they could "re-catch" it or make it worse. Once you have HIV, you have it. At that point, it's a matter of managing the disease with proper medications and a healthy lifestyle. If someone manages their HIV in this way, it's likely that they will live a healthy, full life, even with this disease.
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Answers provided by Dr. Ross Avilla
Dr. Ross Avilla has been teaching Human Sexuality since 2013 and has a PhD in psychology from UC Davis. Dr. Avilla is not a clinician and all information and advice offered on this website is for educational purposes only.