Image credit: iStock/Kuzmichstudio Image credit: iStock/Kuzmichstudio

HIV-positive people who are taking medication to manage the disease are unlikely to transmit the virus to their partners even if they have unprotected sex, according to new research. A new study has found that those who are being treated for HIV have a low risk of passing on the disease during sex, with the chances being lower for straight couples.

An international group of researchers looked at hundreds of couples that included one HIV-positive positive person. Each of the participants who were living with HIV had viral loads below 200 copies per milliliter of blood due to the anti-viral medications they were taking.

While researchers did not ask the couples to have unprotected sex and reiterated the point that doing so could risk infection for the non-HIV-positive person, 888 couples went on to have sex without using condoms on a regular basis.

Participants that did have unprotected sex said they did so because they believed the risk of spreading the virus was low. Some 52 per cent of straight women, 57 per cent of straight men and 63 per cent of gay men believed this. Around 15 per cent of women in the study said they were attempting to conceive and so didn't use condoms.

In total, participants engaged in more than 58,000 incidents of unprotected sex. Not one HIV-negative study participant was infected with the virus. However, participants were diagnosed with other STIs that they did not have.

Out of the 888 couples, 11 volunteers were diagnosed with HIV after they enrolled in the study, however, their virus did not match that of their partners. Some eight out of these 11 admitted to having intercourse with another person outside of the relationship.

Despite the chances of infection through unprotected sex with a HIV-positive person whose viral load is managed with medications being low, the researchers admit that this doesn't not mean it is safe to have sex without a condom. The study is continuing and researchers still recommend ensuring you wear a condom to protect you from STIs, including HIV.