Today we publish an interview with Bruce Richman, co-founder of the Prevention Access Campaign whose much publicized slogan is “Uninfectious = Undetectable”. You can read the interview here.
Also today PositiveLite.com joins those progressive American organizations, many esteemed in their field, who have publicly endorsed the campaign. (You can read a list of them at the end of this article.)
If you read the interview and access the campaign material, you may will come to the same conclusion that I have. Bruce (below, left) is a smart, well informed man. His campaign makes sense. The science confirms it. We need to move to bolder, less unequivocal messaging which tells the truth about undetectable viral load and the negligible risk of transmission associated with it.
No more wavering. It’s just not acceptable that in 2016 so few know that they cannot transmit the virus. It’s just not acceptable that the strong dual-case for early treatment and viral suppression has not always been made by service providers. It’s just not acceptable that the science which has the power to radically transform lives and alter the course of the epidemic has been so poorly communicated. It’s just not acceptable that we have not seized on the chance to reduce HIV stigma by dropping the needless warnings about the often hypothetical consequences of having sex, dropping the sex negativity and abandoning the shaming of condomless sex.
True, Bruce’s campaign goes further than some in that he uses the term “uninfectious” whereas others use the term "negligible" - and that may be the sticking point for some. But what does negligible mean? Your dictionary will tell you: “small or unimportant as to be not worth considering: insignificant.”
If it’s insignificant, why worry about it?
The latest PARTNER study results must be pretty damning for those who worry – or worry for us. After at least 58,000 distinct times when sero-discordant couples had penetrative sex without condoms, there were zero transmissions. You will read much discussion of what that means in terms of the odds of transmission – statisticians will never admit to zero – but we think 0 in 58,000 represents pretty safe odds. Want another take on that? Read Mark S, King’s article “Will HIV Ever Be Safe Enough for You?” here.
It’s good to see the community of people living with HIV, people who know the disease and the science inside out, driving the dialogue here. It’s GIPA in action.
Not that these community voices are really going out on a limb here. Here is what some experts have been saying lately . . . .;
"[PARTNER study] provides the strongest estimate of actual risk of HIV transmission when an HIV positive person has undetectable viral load – and that this risk is effectively zero. “ Simon Collins, Steering Committee, PARTNER study, i-BASE (July 2016)
“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. The risk is effectively zero" Dr. Michael Brady, Medical Director, Terrence Higgins Trust, London, England (July 2016)
“Advances in HIV treatment options mean that HIV-positive people can live long and healthy lives. Research has shown that these same treatments mean that poz folks can lead active, healthy sex lives, without fear of HIV transmission to their HIV-negative partners.” AIDS Committee of Toronto’s HIVNow campaign/”
“When a person living with HIV taking antiretroviral medications achieves an undetectable viral load, that person’s chances of passing on HIV are extremely low or negligible” Canadian Consensus Statement on the health and prevention benefits of HIV antiretroviral medications and HIV testing
So far PositiveLite.com is the only Canadian organization to come out in support of Undetectable = Uninfectious. Canadian organizations (we love them) tend to be slow and deliberate – as a nation we seldom rush into anything – but we hope others will eventually join us. The benefit to people living with HIV, to reaching 90-90-90 and beyond, to reducing HIV stigma and to battling HIV criminalization are, after all, there for the taking.
AIDS2016 saw the launch of a Canadian consensus statement in which PositiveLite.com joined with CATIE and CTAC to move the conversation forward about new prevention technologies, including treatment as prevention. It strikes me that Bruce’s campaign strives to do that too from a more grass-roots perspective. It’s commendable work and we support it wholeheartedly.
How about you?
These are the agencies who have signed on to date as supporters of The Prevention Access Campaign.
- AIDS Alabama
- Elizabeth Taylor AIDS Foundation
- HIV Equal
- HIV Smart
- Human Rights Campaign
- [ imstilljosh ]
- National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC)
- Please PrEP Me
- Positive Women's Network - USA
- PrEP4Love (AIDS Foundation of Chicago)
- PrEP Facts: Rethinking HIV Prevention & Sex
- Rural AIDS Action Network
- San Francisco AIDS Foundation
- Social & Environmental Entrepreneurs
- The Stigma Project
- TransLatina Coalition