Condomless Sex Among Virally Suppressed Women With HIV With Regular HIV-Serodiscordant Sexual Partners in the Era of Treatment as Prevention

J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr. 2017 Dec 1;76(4):372-381. doi: 10.1097/QAI.0000000000001528.


Background: Sexual HIV transmission does not occur with sustained undetectable viral load (VL) on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Awareness of ART prevention benefits and its influence on condom use among women with HIV (WWH) remain unexplored. We estimated prevalence and correlates of condomless sex with regular HIV-serodiscordant partners among WWH with undetectable VL on ART.

Methods: We used baseline questionnaire data from the community-based longitudinal Canadian HIV Women's Sexual and Reproductive Health Cohort Study (CHIWOS). We included WWH self-reporting vaginal/anal sex with ≥1 HIV-negative/unknown status regular partner within 6 months, and undetectable VL (<50 copies/mL) on ART. We excluded participants exclusively reporting female partners or missing condom-use data. Condomless sex was defined as <100% condom use within 6 months. The primary explanatory variable was awareness of ART prevention benefits. Logistic regression identified factors independently associated with condomless sex.

Results: Of 271 participants (19% of the CHIWOS cohort), median age was 41 (interquartile range: 34-47), 51% were in a relationship, 55% reported condomless sex, and 75% were aware of ART prevention benefits. Among women aware, 63% reported condomless sex compared with 32% of women not aware (P < 0.001). Factors independently associated with condomless sex included being aware of ART prevention benefits (adjusted odds ratio: 4.08; 95% confidence interval: 2.04 to 8.16), white ethnicity, ≥high-school education, residing in British Columbia, and being in a relationship.

Conclusions: Virally suppressed women aware of ART prevention benefits had 4-fold greater odds of condomless sex. Advancing safer sex discussions beyond condoms is critical to support women in regular serodiscordant partnerships to realize options for safe and satisfying sexuality in the Treatment-as-Prevention era.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Anti-HIV Agents / therapeutic use*
  • British Columbia / epidemiology
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / epidemiology
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control*
  • HIV Infections / transmission
  • HIV Seronegativity
  • HIV Seropositivity
  • HIV-1
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Post-Exposure Prophylaxis / statistics & numerical data*
  • Reproductive Health
  • Self Report
  • Sexual Partners*
  • Unsafe Sex / psychology
  • Unsafe Sex / statistics & numerical data*
  • Viral Load / drug effects
  • Women's Health


  • Anti-HIV Agents

Grant support