Damien from Los Angeles writes, “I understand the science and I know that a guy who is HIV-positive and undetectable won’t give me HIV. But what's to stop a guy from lying about his status and just saying he's undetectable when he's not?”
What a fantastic question, Damien. I am glad that you are aware of the science behind what it means to be undetectable and that you understand how a sexual relationship with a HIV-positive person can be safe. In the context or your question, it would appear to me that you are inquiring about a scenario where you don’t know the person that well. Maybe it is a first date, or maybe just a casual hook up. In that case, when it comes to the consideration of other people’s status, you should probably go ahead and assume that they are lying. Then, act accordingly.
Now, let me ask you something, Damien. In your sex and dating life, you tell people who you meet that you are HIV-negative. So tell me, has there ever been a time where you declared with absolute certainty that you are negative, but in reality, you had previous sexual encounters since your last HIV test that could have put your status in question? If your answer is yes — which would put you in the majority of people who are HIV-negative — then you have lied about your HIV status.
The truth is, you can never trust anyone about their undetectable status, or their HIV-negative status for that matter, until you have become so intimate with them that you know his medication schedule or have been in a mutually monogamous relationship since his last HIV test. An undetectable diagnosis is a safeguard for the HIV-positive person to rest assured that he or she doesn’t transmit the virus. Don’t rely on someone else’s precaution for his or her safety to ensure yours as well. Take control of your sexual health and do what is necessary, regardless of your sexual partner’s status.
Maybe this wasn’t the answer you were looking for. Maybe what you meant to ask is if he could intentionally or maliciously lie about his undetectable status. This way of thinking, however, lends to the false narrative of the predatory nature of people with HIV. Sure, it’s possible that someone out there could lie to you about being undetectable in order to lure you into condomless sex, but chances are, that type of person wouldn’t reveal his HIV-positive status to begin with.
On the contrary, a person who reveals his positive status to you already displayed honesty, so there is a good chance he at least believes he is undetectable. Of course, you cannot be sure if he is telling the truth unless he just came back from his latest lab test with the receipts to prove it. Just as he cannot be sure that you are HIV-negative unless you have done the same.
Protect yourself, and you do not have to worry about how truthful your sexual partner is or isn’t, undetectable or otherwise.