Call it uninfectious, call it untransmittable. Bottom line is that HIV is not what it used to be. If you maintain an undetectable viral load you are not putting anyone else at risk. You cannot transmit the virus.
That science-based conclusion is unusual in that its messenger is, this time, not conventionally funded AIDS organizations but those most affected - people living with HIV, like New York City’s Bruce Richman, a poz gay man whom I interviewed for PositiveLite.com here. He’s the co-founder of the Prevention Access Campaign, which has been making waves since it was founded just earlier this year. It’s GIPA in action.
Bruce thinks “the HIV prevention revolution is under way, but it's not yet reaching the people most affected. The majority of people living with HIV have not been told that with treatment they can become uninfectious to their sexual partners.” The campaign seeks to ensure accurate and responsible reporting about the current realities of HIV prevention and stigma by challenging what they call “blatant inconsistencies and biases in digital, social, and print media.”
Enter U=U. Positivelite.com endorsed it last month, joining a list of some of the most progressive and respected HIV agencies in the world In Canada, the British Columbia Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS and the HIV Disclosure Project quickly followed suit. Now, significantly, the Canadian national organization representing people living with HIV, Canadian Positive People Network (CPPN), has just announced its endorsement also.
Says a CPPN press release:
“People living with HIV and HIV communities across Canada and around the world are talking about it and so is the CPPN... the CPPN shares in the excitement and optimism that comes with recent evidence which underscores that “Undetectable = Uninfectious” (U=U).
Dr. Michael Brady of the Terrence Higgins Trust has said, “We can now say with confidence that if you are taking HIV medication as prescribed, and have had an undetectable viral load for over six months, you cannot pass on HIV with or without a condom.
CPPN member and Editor of PositiveLite.com, Bob Leahy, has covered this story extensively and his organization has publicly endorsed the U=U findings and the tremendous shift they represent in our HIV prevention work.”
CPPN also cites CATIE recently publishing its own commentary on the risk of transmission in virally suppressed individuals. CATIE, in its article published on PositiveLite.com here also said "it is important that community members – both people living with HIV and those at risk for HIV – be given information and offered counselling about ART and undetectable viral load as a highly effective strategy to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV."
The CPPN press release goes on to say, “The CPPN recognizes and agrees that, overwhelmingly, in Canada and in other parts of the world, U=U represents ground-breaking certainty that "when the HIV positive partner has an undetectable viral load this both protects their own health and prevents new HIV infections,”
CPPN concludes “The CPPN shares in the widespread belief and optimism that the U=U findings will transform our shared HIV prevention efforts. With enthusiastic endorsement, the CPPN will continue to work with its partners in Canada and around the world to champion the U=U findings; and to end stigma, discrimination, and criminalization of HIV here at home and worldwide.”
So this is good news, and news worth sharing. I’d argue that it is the biggest development in the world of HIV since effective treatments were introduced in 1996. It has been a long road to fully understand the incredible impact of such treatments, both in terms of prevention of HIV transmission and as a key to longevity and good health. But as the campaign says we can now celebrate a new era in prevention based on science not stigma.
I’m in. How about you?