Desmond Tutu HIV Foundation (DTHF) strongly endorses the Prevention Access Campaign (PAC) core message: Undetectable HIV is Untransmittable HIV (U=U). Their message is condensed to the simple hashtag #UequalsU.
An HIV-positive person who maintains an undetectable viral load with the aid of regular, successful treatment cannot transmit HIV sexually (1).
Bruce Richman, a cofounder of PAC, began the campaign to share the information that undetectable HIV is not infectious. PAC emphasizes that there is scientific evidence behind this statement. This knowledge has the potential to alter negative perceptions around the disease, yet the message still hasn’t reached everyone. His motivations behind the U=U campaign are as follows:
“The U=U science has the potential to transform the lives of millions of people with and affected by HIV and to radically transform the field. It’s time to ensure this game-changing science breaks through the intersecting stigma and politics in medicine and public health to reach the people and field it is intended to benefit.”
There are still many people living with HIV that don’t know that if the virus is undetectable, then they cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partners. Undetectable HIV means that the viral load is suppressed and doesn’t show up on blood tests. Richman adds that “The U=U message is an unprecedented opportunity to dismantle HIV stigma and transform lives of people living with HIV by lifting the fear and shame of transmission.”
HIV-positive people with an undetectable viral load are healthier and much less likely to infect other people. If everyone took steps to have an undetectable HIV viral count, then lower rates of transmission could help stop the spread of the virus.
There is a need for increased access to viral load detection tests in Sub-Saharan Africa. It is recommended that everyone get an HIV test, but it is recommended that sexually active gay and bisexual men may benefit from a test every 3 to 6 months (2). In Cape Town, the Western Cape Government will provide a free viral load test every six months at public clinics (3).This is an excellent service, however might not be enough for people who engage in high HIV-transmission risk behaviour.
Other Sub-Saharan countries, like Malawi, only recommend viral load testing every other year for persons on antiretroviral therapy (4). Guidelines like these that don’t provide timely viral load monitoring are a huge barrier to preventing the spread of HIV. Knowing that UequalsU is one step. The next is ensuring that everyone can reliably monitor their viral load.
Linda-Gail Bekker, Chief Operating Officer at DTHF, comments that “In this era of ART access for all, it is important to realize that those individuals who take their treatment and are virally suppressed are very unlikely to be infectious – and this for them is wonderfully liberating!”
Loving someone is not a criminal act, although many HIV-positive people are still discriminated against because of their disease. By raising awareness that U=U we can spread the message that undetectable HIV is untransmittable HIV.
If you want to help spread awareness, then use the hashtags #UequalsU #FactsNotFear and #ScienceNotStigma.
You can also follow PAC on Facebook and Twitter using @PreventionAC.
Undetectable HIV is Untransmittable
U=U Undetectable=Untransmittable video by PAC