The U=U campaign highlights the importance of accessing HIV medication in a timely manner.
This initiative explains how effective treatment means that you cannot pass HIV onto a sexual partner.
The Importance of Having a Low Vivral Load
A viral load is a term that is used to describe the level of HIV in the body, which can be determined through a blood test. A higher viral load is associated with having a higher risk of transmitting HIV.
HIV medication can stop HIV from duplicating in the body and can ensure that the viral load can become so low that it is not detectable in a blood test. This is known as an undetectable viral load. Undetectable viral loads are untransmissible.
Effective HIV treatment or medication and an undetectable load means that the risk of HIV being passed on is zero: having an undetectable viral load means that HIV cannot be passed on to sexual partners.
U=U: The Science
The science behind U=U stems from 3 studies (Partner 1, Partner 2 and Opposites Attract). No transmission of HIV from a sexual partner with an undetectable viral load was seen is approximately 130,000 people in acts of unprotected sex. Therefore, the risk of acquiring HIV from someone with an undetectable viral load is statistically equivalent to zero.
By highlighting the data found by U=U, people with HIV are now seeing the benefits of HIV treatment, according to Man2Man.ie, who also state that people are now taking their viral load into consideration in safe sex practises.
If you want to stop using condoms and have discussed this with your sexual partner, it is also important to remember that while using this approach will protect your partner(s) from HIV, it does not protect them or you from other STIs.
The following are some guidelines for men who may be thinking about using this approach to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, according to Man2Man:
- the viral load can increase if doses of HIV treatment are missed. Take pills exactly as prescribed. Adherence to treatment is critical to keep the viral load undetectable;
- check to make sure the blood viral load is undetectable before starting this approach, and get regular viral load tests to ensure it remains undetectable.
- as a guideline, it is suggested that you and your partner(s) wait until your viral load has been undetectable for at least six months before making any decisions about whether to stop using condoms;
- if you have not already done so, get vaccinations for hepatitis A and B;
- use other HIV prevention strategies as much as possible. This will help reduce the overall risk of HIV transmission.