Living with HIV: Reinfection and Its Risks

One of the most commonly asked questions that people with HIV ask is: “I am HIV positive, do I still need to use condoms when having sex with another HIV positive individual?”

The answer is definitely “yes”. Having unprotected sex with another HIV infected person puts you at a risk of getting HIV reinfection (or superinfection). There have been several studies that have presented compelling evidence which confirm that HIV reinfection can happen and can cause many problems to HIV infected people.

What Is HIV Superinfection?

HIV_positiveThis is a circumstance in which an individual with established HIV infection gets a second strain of the virus. A recombinant strain (the HIV reinfection strain) appears when an individual gets infected by two different HIV strains, causing the DNA to fuse and create a new one. The 2nd strain coexists with the 1st one and may cause the disease to progress rapidly or cause resistance to some HIV medication.

For a number of years, reinfection was believed to occur mainly in high-risk populations. According to a number of research published in The Journal of Infectious Diseases, dozens of cases of superinfection have been documented since 2002.

Actions Which Place You at Risk of HIV Superinfection

These are the same as those which would put a non-infected individual at risk of getting HIV; that is:

- Sharing needles with HIV infected people.

- Having unprotected sex with HIV infected sexual partners. Use condoms whenever you are having sex. Even though some people claim that sex with condoms doesn't feel as good as that without condoms, it's possible to have a satisfying sex life which involves condoms.

How Reinfection Affects a Person

As you have already been informed, there are different strains of HIV. Moreover, HIV mutates with time when exposed to treatment and medications. When an individual is re-infected with a different strain of HIV or if he or she is re-infected with a mutated HIV type via unprotected sex, the treatment will become far more complex and possibly ineffective.

For instance, consider a patient who is undergoing HIV treatment and his medications are working well. Then he has unprotected sex with another HIV infected person and gets re-infected with their strain which is resistant to most of the medications. As time passes, the new strain will flourish in his body, thereby rendering the once successful treatment ineffective. Sooner or later, his viral load will hit the roof and damage his immune system.


While in the past having HIV seemed like a death sentence, it isn’t the case anymore. With today’s medication, you can have the virus and still be able to enjoy a long, quality life. However, it is vital that you take all precautions to avoid HIV reinfection which can seriously worsen your condition.

Alexandr Sedishev