If you’ve been present in what’s happening in HIV news over the past couple years, you’ve probably heard the term U=U. If you’re not familiar with U=U or Undetectable = Untransmittable, here’s the scoop: Science says that someone with an undetectable HIV viral load cannot pass the virus onto someone else.
What does it mean for HIV to be undetectable?
A “viral load” is the amount of HIV detectable in a person’s blood. If a person’s viral load is so low that it can’t be seen on a test, that person is considered to have an “undetectable viral load” or be “virally suppressed.”
We now know that a person taking antiretroviral therapy medication (ART), who has an undetectable viral load, cannot pass HIV on through sex.
A study called PARTNERS done in 2016 showed that, when the people in the study, who were virally suppressed, had sex without condoms over 58,000 times, there were no reported transmissions of HIV.
Another study showed no transmissions in over 17,000 sex acts between over 300 gay male couples.
Why the message of Undetectable = Untransmittable is big news
The science behind U=U is helping lift the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS. Being a person who is HIV-positive no longer means that you are at risk of transmitting the disease to your partner, as long as you are receiving proper treatment.
It is also showing good results in reducing the risk of passing HIV from mother to baby during pregnancy or through breast feeding.
While the stigma around HIV once painted the virus as something dirty, shameful, and dark, science is shining a light on developments that are allowing people with HIV to live long, healthy, and happy lives.
Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load requires consistent treatment and monitoring.
Most people who start antiretroviral therapy find a regimen that works within 6 months and are able to achieve an undetectable viral load. That is why it is more important than ever to get tested, know your status, and start treatment, if necessary.
You can find out more about U=U on the Prevention Access website. If you are sexually active, take the first step in taking control of your sexual health by knowing your status. We offer free HIV testing at AIDS Resource.