People living with HIV can now feel confident that if they have an undetectable viral load and take their HIV medications properly, they will not pass on HIV to sexual partners.

This is U=U or Undetectable Equals Untransmittable.

“As the UK’s leading voice for HIV health professionals, our backing for U=U is unequivocal. There should be no doubt about the clear and simple message that a person with sustained, undetectable levels of HIV virus in their blood cannot transmit HIV to their sexual partners.”
Professor Chloe Orkin, Chair, British HIV Association (BHIVA).

What is an undetectable viral load?

The amount of HIV in the blood of someone who has HIV is called their viral load.  Without HIV medication, the viral load can be high.  HIV medication stops HIV from making copies of itself, and the viral load can be made so low that it is not detectable in a standard blood test.  This is called having an ‘undetectable viral load’.

What about other body fluids like semen and rectal fluids?

The viral load in blood and in other body fluids is usually very similar. If HIV in your blood is not detectable, it’ll be undetectable in other body fluids.

And what does untransmittable mean?

It simply means that something cannot be passed on or transmitted.

When we are talking about HIV, undetectable = untransmittable means that when a person with HIV has a viral load that is not detectable, they cannot pass on HIV through sex.

How do you really know this?

A number of major studies took place to look at undetectable viral loads and the sexual transmission of HIV.

The biggest one was the PARTNER Study followed by the PARTNER2 Study.

Serophobia

Finally, a few things about serophobia.

Disclosing a person’s HIV status (outing them), or speculating about someone’s HIV status or holding discriminatory ideas about HIV positive people is serophobia.

Even the gay apps asking someone to reveal their HIV status is potentially serophobic as it segregates and creates division.

You discriminate against us

Serophobia forces HIV positive people “into the closet”, and keeps them there. We have fought for decades against homophobia, and never looked back.

Let’s be aware of the consequences of our actions and beliefs, and work to contribute to a community where respect trumps discrimination and exclusion.

Words can hurt

Choosing a words like “clean” or “drug and disease free” implies judgement, and suggests that HIV positive guys are dirty and unhealthy.

Be careful of the words you use and the messages they can send. There is always a way to express what you want to say without hurting or discriminating against someone who’s HIV positive.

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