HIV Treatment Can Keep You From Infecting Your Partner

Photo: Jonathan Pow / Barcroft Images / Barcroft Media, Getty Images

If you have HIV, but your viral load tests show that the virus is undetectable, you can’t transmit it to other people. That fact is the basis of the “U=U” awareness campaign, and it was just further confirmed in a new study.

“The question has been definitively answered, there is no need for further research. It’s not often we get to say that,” Alison Rodger, one of the authors, told CNN.

The new study followed 782 couples, where both partners were men, one with HIV and one without. The partners with HIV were taking antiretroviral medication to keep their viral levels suppressed (undetectable or at extremely low levels).

Over the course of the study, which included nearly 77,000 instances of anal sex without a condom, no one contracted HIV from their partner.

This builds on previous research that was done mainly in heterosexual couples. The virus is more likely to be transmitted during anal sex than vaginal sex, so it was important to confirm that HIV treatment can still be considered effective prevention even in gay couples.

There are some important caveats, and if you or your partner has HIV you should certainly talk with your doctor or someone at your sexual health clinic to make sure you’re doing everything right.

For example, the person with HIV should make sure they have been at “undetectable” levels for six months before relying on their status as prevention. The HIV-negative person should also use condoms or consider PrEP if they have sex with anyone else; some of the people in the study contracted HIV from people who were not their enrolled partner.

The bottom line is, “undetectable equals untransmittable” is the scientific consensus, and it’s an important reason to get tested and to get treatment if you’re positive. You can read more about the science and the recommendations from the Prevention Access Campaign.


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