HIV at Undetectable Levels Is Untransmittable Experts Say

HIVThe National Institutes of Health has stated that over 300 global health agencies conclude that if a person tests positive for having the HIV virus in the blood and the viral loads are undetectable, it is untransmittable to a negative individual (U=U).

A study by one of the world’s experts regarding HIV/AIDS, NIAID Director Dr. Anthony Fauci, who works at the National Institute for Allergies and Infectious Diseases, appeared in JAMA (The Journal of the American Medical Association) on Jan. 10. Fauci and his colleagues looked at data from 77,000 couples who were male and had sex with men. The couples were serodiscordant (one individual has HIV, and the other is negative), and did not use condoms during sexual encounters.

None of the individuals who were negative became infected with the virus. The conclusion from the researchers found that an individual who is positive for HIV did not transmit it to another if their viral load was undetectable.

The report warned that multiple conditions must be present for the study to be accurate. Individuals must be compliant with their antiretroviral medication (ART), and viral loads can take six months to become undetectable once blood work has found a person has been infected.  Also, once an individual is diagnosed as being positive, they must have blood tests to monitor their viral load every 3-4 months to ensure that they remain undetectable.

The study by NIAID builds upon research performed in 2011 that studied serodiscordant heterosexual couples. The analysis determined if the HIV positive individual was compliant with their ART regimen when they were initially diagnosed. Consequently, there was a 96.4 percent chance they would not infect their negative partner.

However, the research found that if the viral load was not negative,  ART therapy was not started immediately, or if it was not working correctly, HIV could be transmitted.

The ART medication regimen was first introduced to the public in 1996, and consists of different combinations of medications which will not cure the individual of HIV, but slows its growth.

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reports 1.1 million people are infected with HIV. In 2017 there were 39,000 new cases diagnosed specifically in the United States.

Forty million individuals from around the world have been diagnosed with HIV. Almost 22 million positive individuals take ART medications.

Due to ART medications and other therapies that have been developed, deaths caused by AIDS has dropped 51 percent since 2004.  According to the NIH, that is when AIDS-related deaths were at its peak.

Fauci also declared for U=U to be successful, it is imperative that ART therapy is adhered to daily. However, being unable to obtain quality health care can make it difficult to attain and maintain ART therapy.

The amount of  U=U cases can be improved. More programs have to be implemented that will help HIV positive individuals obtain ART medications and help with adherence to medical care.

Written By Barbara Sobel

Sources:

National Institute of Allergies and Infectious Diseases: The Science Is Clear: With HIV, Undetectable Equals Untransmittable
Queerty: US government concludes that HIV is untransmittable at undetectable levels
Times Now News: Undetectable levels of HIV is untransmittable, say experts
JAMA: HIV Viral Load and Transmissibility of HIV Infection: Undetectable Equals Untransmittable
News Medical: Clinical evidence firmly confirms the HIV Undetectable = Untransmittable concept

Featured and Top Image Courtesy of  Anqa’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

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