For people living with HIV, antiretroviral therapy (ART) has been a lifesaver. Now, scientists have learned that low viral loads also benefit their partners. A new round of research has shown that people with no detectable virus do not transmit the disease. In other words, undetectable = untransmittable.
“Scientists never like to use the word 'never' of a possible risk,” said Dr. Anthony S. Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease. “But I think in this case we can say that the risk of transmission from an HIV-positive person who takes treatment and has an undetectable viral load may be so low as to be unmeasurable, and that’s equivalent to saying they are uninfectious.”
This new consensus on HIV comes from years of research and is endorsed by the International AIDS Society and many other groups. Two studies in particular, called HPTN 052 and PARTNER, showed that people who had no detectable virus did not transmit HIV.
PARTNER studied more than 1,100 couples for three years and found no instances where HIV had been transmitted between the partners. HPTN 052 studied more than 1,700 couples for five years and had similar results. These are excellent outcomes from large studies and bode well for people living with HIV.
Education is critical. Many patients and providers are unaware of this relatively new information, which means people may be missing out on treatment. It’s time to spread the word!
Planned Parenthood is committed to providing evidence-based health care, education, and information that reflect recent advances. We have options — STI testing and treatment, LGBT services, nPEP and PrEP, among other services — for anyone who needs care.
The more people know about their status and options, the better their outcomes. In other words: Get tested, get treated.