What is HIV Super-Infection and How is it Prevented?

Mixed-status couples usually understand the risks associated in sex when your partner has HIV and will take steps to practice safer sex. However, couples where both parties are HIV+ should also continue using protection. Even if you are HIV+, you could pick up additional strains of the virus, leading to super-infection.


What is Super-Infection?

Multiple strains of the human immunodeficiency virus exist, and it’s possible for an HIV-positive person to acquire a subsequent form of the virus. This is known as a super-infection or re-infection. The newer subtype of HIV can actually coexist in the bloodstream with the initial strain.


A secondary strain is considered a super-infection if it develops after the immune system begins to respond to the first infection. This means people already in the treatment stage can be affected. The viral load in an infected person’s blood and other areas may have an impact on susceptibility. Viral load – as we talked about last month — is basically the total amount of the virus in the system. Many people who developed super-infections initially had low numbers. After acquiring the second strain, viral loads typically increase.


How Dangerous is Super-Infection?


Super-infections are risky because of the negative effects they create. Some subtypes of HIV may be more resistant to the drugs used to treat the individual. As a result, the progression of HIV-related diseases may increase. CD4 or T cells may also decrease in number when reinfection occurs.


These white blood cells are central to safeguarding the body from infection, and lower counts can trigger a domino effect of health issues. Because of these concerns, treatment for reinfected individuals often becomes more complicated.


Always Practice Safer Sex


Although super-infections seem to be rare, the negative consequences are too serious to ignore. Even if both you and your partner have HIV, you can each still develop a second strain that may be worse than the first. It’s vital to use protection every time you have sex if you want to prevent reinfection. Taking the right steps now may promote you and your partner’s good health for the future.