I’m a bisexual woman living in a major city. My boyfriend of about a year is HIV-positive. He’s been undetectable for more than a decade, but I'm on PrEP, just to be double-back-flip safe. I trust science and I’m comfortable with this, in part thanks to your clear and honest conversations around HIV. We have been talking about playing with other couples or singles, but I'm super nervous about contracting herpes, and he agrees he doesn't need that in his life either. I know it's part of the risk and I’m aware of all the stigma around having/getting herpes and other STIs. The thing is, I would like to have a very open conversation with our future hookups about testing and STI status. The problem: my partner does not disclose his status. Only a handful of people in his life know. Not even his family knows. How do we go about having a transparent conversation with potential hookups about status and risk if he's not comfortable disclosing his HIV-positive status? We live in a state where it's not illegal to withhold this information. Is lying the only option?

Risk Adverse Dame

First, a quick refresher on the science: If someone with HIV is taking their meds and has an undetectable viral load, that person is un-infectious; meaning, that HIV-positive person can’t—cannot—infect someone with HIV. An HIV-negative person is at greater risk of contracting HIV having unprotected sex, i.e., condomless sex, with someone who thinks they’re HIV-negative than they are having unprotected sex with someone who knows they’re HIV-positive and has an undetectable viral load. And while some argue it’s inaccurate to describe bareback sex with an HIV-positive person with an undetectable viral load as “unprotected,” since the meds themselves provide protection, HIV meds—including PrEP, which is a pill HIV-negative people can take to protect themselves from contracting HIV—offer no protection against gonorrhea, syphilis, chlamydia, and other STIs. So, meds or no meds, PrEP or no PrEP, condomless sex still counts as unprotected sex.

A little more science...

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