What Is a “Mixed-Status” Relationship?A "mixed-status" relationship is a sexual relationship between partners with different HIV statuses: one partner is HIV-positive and one is HIV-negative. This can involve a couple in a long-term relationship or a single encounter between two partners. You may also hear these terms to describe such relationships:
Is It Safe for Mixed-Status Couples To Have Sex?For mixed-status couples, the possibility of HIV infection is a constant reality. There is always a risk, but you can minimize it.
If you are in a mixed-status relationship and you have sex (anal, oral, or vaginal), you can protect against HIV and other sexually transmitted infections by using condoms and dental dams consistently and correctly.
For more information on using condoms and dental dams, see AIDS.gov's Prevention: Safer Sex or the Department of Veterans Affairs' great, plain-language Tips for Using Condoms and Dental Dams.
If you are part of a mixed-status couple, it is important that you and your partner communicate openly and often about safer sex practices and HIV prevention. Healthcare providers and local HIV/AIDS organizations can be important sources of information and support for you and your partner.
If you are the HIV-positive partner in a mixed-status relationship, you can lower the risk of transmitting HIV to your partner if you are on antiretroviral therapy. Taking all your medications, on time, will help to lower the viral load in your body fluids and decrease the chance that you will transmit HIV to your partner. But remember, even if you have a low viral load, you can still transmit HIV to your sex partner. So it is important to always use a condom and practice safer sex. And, if you inject drugs, never share syringes, water, or drug preparation equipment with others since HIV-infected blood can be transmitted through them.
If you are the HIV-negative partner in a mixed-status relationship, talk with your partner about condoms and safer sex practices. If you are in an ongoing relationship with your partner, support him/her in taking all of his/her HIV medications at the right times. This "medication adherence" will lower his/her viral load and reduce the risk that HIV can be transmitted. You may also want to stay up-to-date on developments about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). Though researchers are not recommending PrEP be immediately used to prevent HIV infection, recent research findings suggest this may someday be another prevention method to be used with – not instead of – condoms, safer sex practices and other HIV prevention methods.