Posted on May 07, 2019, 5 p.m.
University of Copenhagen and University College London collaborative research suggests men taking antiretroviral treatments are significantly less likely to transmits the HIV virus to male partners during sexual intercourse, findings support the Undetectable=Untransmittable Campaign.
When HIV has been fully suppressed through antiretrovirals HIV partners have a zero chance of spreading infection to a non-infected partner, according to the researchers in this follow up study to the original PARTNER study which followed heterozexual couples, as published in the Lancet.
“Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART is zero,” said Alison Rodger, “Our findings support the message of the international U=U campaign, that a suppressed viral load makes HIV untransmittable.”
This PARTNER2 study involved following nearly 1,000 homosexual male couples for 8 years across Europe; within each couple one partner was HIV-positive and taking antiretrovirals. During the study period no cases of HIV transmission occurred in 77,000 unprotected sexual encounters reported between the couples; it was noted that 15 cases of infection occurred but they were the result of having not using a condom when having intercourse with a partner that was not part of the study and not taking antiretrovirals.
Among the participants in this study antiretroviral treatments were estimated to have prevented 472 potential HIV transmissions; antiretrovirals suppress the viral load of retroviruses in infected people, without treatment the viral load can grow into the millions, while with strict adherence to treatment regime the virus can be suppressed to undetectable levels. Study results when taken together suggest that antiretroviral treatment when strictly adhered to is just as effective for homosexual couples as it is for heterosexual couples.
“It is impossible to overstate the importance of these findings. The PARTNER study has given us the confidence to say, without doubt, that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners. This has incredible impact on the lives of people living with HIV and is a powerful message to address HIV-related stigma.” said Dr. Michael Brady, Medical Director at the Terrence Higgins Trust.
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