Sunday, June 27, 2010

Great questions

I had a comment left on my last post that asked some great questions, so I wanted to answer them so that everyone could see the answers.

Ok some questions that have come up today (not from me, but I dont have answers, so I figured Id ask and pass the word along): What happens when a person with HIV is sexually active- will an undetectable viral load protect her partner? Can you get HIV from throw up? (The question was, what happens if your kid throws up, and you clean it up as most moms would...)If they shouldnt share toothbrushes, does the same go for anything that goes in their mouth- utensils, share food, share drinks, etc? I know you cant get it from saliva, but couldnt there still be a risk if a toothbrush is a risk?If you can get it from "other" bodily fluids, what about through mucous from the nose, or a sneeze?Again, these were asked directed towards me, and I didnt have an answer, perhaps you might? Thanks again for your openness with this subject

For the first question about the risk when a person with an undetectable viral load is sexually active, here is a good recent article that was published (thanks to Bethany from Positively Orphaned for posting this on her blog) -
Even with the reduced risk of transmission we will talk to Victoria about always having safe sex. This will be something that her and her husband will have to discuss and will hopefully be able to make a decision as adults about what is best for them. We would suggest that when she is ready to have a baby they use artificial insemenation, but again this will be up to them.

No, you can not get HIV from throw up. The virus is only found in blood, breast milk, vaginal secretions and semen. It is not found in bodily fluids such as urine, mucus, vomit, feces, etc. So, even though it is gross, there is no risk of cleaning up your child's throw up (and I have had to do it).

The issue about the toothbrushes is really more of a precaution because gums tend to bleed. Even then there would have to be a significant amount of blood on the toothbrush and would have to be used within seconds by another person with bloody gums (the HIV virus dies very quickly outside of the body). With an undetectable viral load this is not something we worry about, but we take these precautions just to be responsible. So, yes, they can share things like utensils, food, drinks, etc. Although, with our children we prefer they don't share these things anyway just because of germs in general. We don't want them to share these things with people outside of our house, so we teach it here so that it is easier for them.

Again, HIV is not found in bodily fluids such as mucus, so a sneeze or cough is no risk.

With an undetectable viral load the amount of virus present in the person's blood is so low it is not even detected on blood tests. They will always be HIV+ because they carry the antibodies, but the risk of transmission in normal every day settings is really non existent. We take minor precautions because it is the responsible thing to do, but we really do not panic about things or make a big deal about it. I wipe boogie noses and poopy butts and clean up throw up, just like any other mother.

Thanks for asking these questions! I hope more people ask the questions they have.


  1. Thanks for taking the time to explain this stuff. Tonight we will be talking about the questions asked, and now I have answers to provide! :)
    I came up with another... once you have achieved non-detectable status, can that change from appointment to appointment? Is everyone capable of lowering their levels enough so that they are undetectable?

  2. I wouldn't say it could change from appointment to appointment, but yes, your viral load can change. This is one of the reasons they do blood work every 3 months, to make sure they stay on top of it. Usually if it does go back up it is an indication that either the dosage of medication needs to be changed or possibly even the type of medication. One reason it is important to take the medicine consistantly is so that you don't build up a resistancy to it, but most likely eventually a person will start to build resistancy either way. For some people they can stay years and years and years on the same meds. We are lucky these days though because there are now so many drugs available with almost endless combinations of things.

    I would assume that everyone is capable of lowering their levels to undetectable (or at least very close to that). I know of some children that had full blown AIDS when they were adopted that now have undetectable viral loads and very good CD4 counts.

  3. Thanks :) And btw my latest post was definitely not directed towards you ;) I really appreciate your answers!

  4. Wonderful blog, great information. This is the ideal way for this type of information to be stated so that anyone can understand.Keep up the good work!

    Kathy B.