People on effective HIV treatment can't pass on the virus.
WHAT WE KNOW:
People living with HIV need to take treatment in order to maintain an undetectable viral load and stay healthy. This treatment is often known as Antiretroviral Therapy (ART), which basically suppresses the copies of the virus found in blood, vaginal fluids, semen or anal mucus.
UNDETECTABLE viral load means that less than 200 copies of the virus can be found per mL of blood when testing, but what does UNTRANSMITTABLE mean? UNTRANSMITTABLE means that people on effective ART cannot pass the virus. So knowing your status and being on ART helps to stop the spread of HIV infection.
HOW DO WE KNOW this?
Thanks to the PARTNER studies, where the status of 900+ serodiscordant couples (where one of the partners is HIV positive and the other one is HIV negative) was monitored over a period of time.
After around 126,000 condomless sex acts, there were no reported cases of any HIV transmission when the HIV positive partner was undetectable and on effective ART (antiretroviral therapy).
This means we can confidently state that HIV positive people on effective treatment simply can't pass the virus on.
What does it take TO become undetectable?
It might vary between individuals but it could take up to a couple of months for your viral load to go down to consistent undetectable levels after starting ART. Doctors recommend being undetectable for at least six months before you can rely on "treatment as prevention" as an effective method against HIV transmission.
If I am undetectable, can I stop using condoms?
It is completely up to the people involved BUT being HIV-undetectable doesn't mean you are not at risk of catching other STIs.
Following the recent rise on the number of people using PREP, there have been reports of an increase of other sexually transmitted infection, however, this is likely to be the consequence of the fact that PREP users are getting tested more regularly, which means an obvious increase in the number of STIs reported... it's just pure maths!
WHAT DOES U=U MEAN TO YOU?
ROBERTO - 32
UNDETECTABLE SINCE 2015
"I could have condomless sex and not pass the virus to my sexual partners, I could try to have babies (If I wanted to) and not pass the virus to my partner or baby."
UNDETECTABLE SINCE 2014
"I felt relieved since I no longer had to worry about having to disclose my status if I didn't want to, and helped me to have a more relaxed approach towards relationships and sex. Knowing I was undetectable also made me feel I was in control of my health."
JULIO - 33
UNDETECTABLE SINCE 2019
"To be undetectable is to reaffirm that living with no fear is the way to go. To be undetectable is a daily invitation to talk to my body and take care of it. To be undetectable is to tear down everyone else’s and my own wall of prejudice, to build up a responsibly an intimate and delicious sexual life. To be undetectable is to be untransmittable."
Help us spread the message.
We know what U=U means now, but we need to find a way to reach as many people as possible. From your close circle of friends to someone sitting next to you in public transport. Go out, go loud and help us spread the message. If you wanna know more about it you can check Terrence Higgings Trust's website, they have been working in the field for years.