A study conducted in the UK has found that using antiretroviral drugs to suppress HIV to undetectable levels means the virus cannot be passed on via sex. Published in the medical journal, The Lancet the study, led by Professor Alison Rodgers from the University College London was conducted between 2010 and 2017.
Among nearly 1,000 male couples across Europe where one partner with HIV was receiving treatment to suppress the virus, there were no cases of transmission of the infection to the HIV-negative partner during sex without a condom. Although 15 men contracted HIV during the eight-year study, DNA testing proved that this was through sex with someone other than their partner who was not on treatment.
“This very much puts this issue to bed,” says Professor Rodgers.
Earlier studies have also shown the treatment protects heterosexual couples where one partner has HIV.
“Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART [antiretroviral therapy] is zero. Our findings support the message of the international U=U campaign that an undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable,” Professor Rodgers said.
Professor Rodgers said the study sent a powerful message.
“This powerful message can help end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission, and tackling the stigma and discrimination that many people with HIV face. “Increased efforts must now focus on wider dissemination of this powerful message and ensuring that all HIV-positive people have access to testing, effective treatment, adherence support and linkage to care to help maintain an undetectable viral load.” Professor Rodgers said.