Becoming "Undetectable": Longitudinal Narratives of Gay Men's Sex Lives After a Recent HIV Diagnosis

AIDS Educ Prev. 2015 Aug;27(4):333-49. doi: 10.1521/aeap.2015.27.4.333.


We explore gay men's sex life narratives following their diagnosis with an acute or recent HIV infection. All participants received an acute (n = 13) or recent (n = 12) HIV diagnosis and completed a series of self-administered questionnaires and in-depth qualitative interviews over a one-year period or longer. Over the course of four qualitative interviews, participants frequently spoke of the role of medications (e.g., decisions to start treatment) and changing viral loads (e.g., discourses of becoming "undetectable") in relation to their sex lives since being diagnosed with HIV. Many men talked about milestones relating to initiating medication and viral load as informing their shifting sexual behaviors and identities as HIV-positive--or "undetectable"--gay men. The narratives of our participants provide insight regarding complex negotiations and processes of decision-making over time related to sex, counseling needs, treatment initiation, viral load, and the significance of undetectability as an emergent identity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • HIV Infections / diagnosis*
  • HIV Infections / psychology
  • HIV Serosorting
  • Homosexuality, Male / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Interviews as Topic
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Multivariate Analysis
  • Qualitative Research
  • Sexual Partners / psychology*
  • Socioeconomic Factors
  • Surveys and Questionnaires