If a person is being treated for HIV, does it prevent spread of the disease? Not necessarily – in fact, even when antiretroviral treatments appear to have stopped replication of the disease within a man’s blood, it doesn’t mean the disease isn’t traveling along with his semen during sex. Especially in cases where a man has other diseases besides HIV the disease can easily be spread via unsafe intercourse.

Don’t take this to mean that such treatments don’t helping – some who are receiving antiretroviral treatments may no longer have any signs of the disease in their blood at all, but this alone does not mean anyone is “cured” from the disease. It does however mean that they are far less likely to give the disease to someone else – yet even then it doesn’t completely prevent transmission. It reduces the likelihood of transmission greatly, but with a disease like HIV any odds of transmission are too high to risk.

A new study performed amongst more than 100 practicing homosexual men has shed further light on the subject. The study revealed that over 10% of the men in the study still had HIV in their semen, despite blood samples tested as clean. More than half of these men had been transmitters of the disease despite treatment were also suffering from other conditions, specifically various forms of herpes.

So what is the connection between herpes and HIV in the semen? It seems to have to do with herpes activating the immune system – genital herpes causes the body to send additional T-cells and other antibodies to the genitals; these immune cells are typically used by HIV to travel around the body without detection. The result of this is infected sperm. These results show that if treatment of HIV is to also succeed in prevent transmission, the body must also be free of other such diseases that can help it to hide and spread.