WASHINGTON, DC — HIV treatment that leads to viral suppression for at least 6 months is 100% effective in preventing the transmission of HIV, even in the absence of condoms or HIV prevention drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But not all care providers tell their patients that.
A survey in the Midwest showed that 22% of HIV physicians still don’t feel comfortable explaining to patients the science behind what is known in the community as U=U, or undetectable equals untransmittable.
And that number is even higher among the physician assistants, nurse practitioners, advanced practice nurses, and traditional registered nurses who serve people living with HIV, said Emily Petran, MPH, from the Minnesota site of the Midwest AIDS Training and Education Center (MATEC) in Minneapolis.
The survey — which was more of a needs assessment than a scientific survey — points to the need for education so that people with HIV have all the information they need to care for themselves and their partners, she said here at the United States Conference on AIDS 2019.
HIV positive people with an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV. That’s the unequivocal conclusion from one of the leading health agencies in the US.
Researchers from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) undertook a review of recent research. Their conclusion is simple: Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U). It’s the same message now backed by over 300 health agencies all around the world.
The results of the NIAID review were published yesterday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA). One of the reports co-authors is NIAID Director, Dr Anthony Fauci. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading HIV experts.
In a statement, NIAID called evidence for Undetectable = Untransmittable ‘overwhelming’. Not only does getting those diagnosed with HIV on to Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) ensure their long term health. But it also significantly reduces HIV transmission rates. This is because those with the virus suppressed in their body cannot pass it on.
The authors pointed to research that looked at over 77,000 examples of condomless sex between serodiscordant male couples. One half of the couple had HIV and the other did not. There was not a single transmission of the virus from the HIV positive person to the negative person.
A clinical trial testing infusions of combination antibodies in people living with HIV has begun at the National Institutes of Health. The early-phase clinical trial will evaluate whether periodic infusions of two highly potent, HIV-specific, broadly neutralizing antibodies (bNAbs)—3BNC117 and 10-1074—are safe in people living with HIV. The study also will gather preliminary data on how effectively the bNAb infusions, delivered together every two to four weeks, suppress HIV following discontinuation of antiretroviral therapy (ART).
“Antiretroviral therapy suppresses HIV to very low levels, normalizes life expectancy, and prevents sexual transmission of the virus. However, these benefits are lost if an individual stops taking the medications as prescribed,” said Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), part of NIH. “If proven safe and effective, periodic infusions of potent, broadly neutralizing HIV antibodies may be a potential alternative to daily antiretroviral therapy.”
Risk of HIV transmission is virtually eliminated when people living with HIV are consistently taking effective HIV medication, (known as antiretroviral therapy or ARVs). It’s well-verified by research, and backed up by many years of real world observation: There have been no cases of transmission in couples where the HIV-positive partner was on meds and had “undetectable” viral load test results for at least six months.
But what does this mean for gay and bi men making decisions about sex, whether in ongoing partnerships, casual dating or anonymous encounters? Get the answers on thebody.com.