HIV now — all about U=U: Undetectable = Untransmittable

By Chris Williams, updated 1 year ago in Health / Sexual health

two dark haired men smiling and hugging

UVL, Undetectable equals untransmittable, U=U, [+U], undetectable viral load… however it’s stated, the underpinning evidence is clear: people living with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit the virus — even when condoms aren’t being used.

Nearly four decades into the global HIV/AIDS pandemic — one of the most destructive in the history of our species — it’s understandable there might be questions about this groundbreaking science; how long has this been a thing for, how are we sure it works, how does someone living with HIV do this, who benefits from knowing this…

What seemed unimaginable not so long ago is now one of the biggest and most important breakthroughs in what we understand about HIV. Why? Because using HIV treatment to maintain an undetectable viral load is one of the most effective forms of HIV prevention around.

In this three part video series, we delve in to the concepts, the terminology, the scientific evidence to support what we now understand, and how people living with HIV are doing their bit to stop new transmissions.

What does undetectable mean?

Harrison’s here to help explain the concepts behind an undetectable viral load and some of the common terminology and symbols adopted by the community to represent this. While undetectable doesn’t mean someone is cured of HIV, it does mean their treatment is so effective at suppressing the amount of virus in their body, they can’t pass it on.

All about U=U: What does undetectable mean? | Part 1/3

The evidence for preventing HIV

Scientists first made claims about the protective benefits of HIV treatment as far back as 2008. Though it wasn’t until two large studies proved some years later that an undetectable viral load fully protects against HIV during condomless sex. Since then, UNAIDS, the World Health Organization, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and HIV/AIDS organisations worldwide have also come on board to endorse the U=U message.

All about U=U: The evidence for preventing HIV | Part 2/3

Maintaining an undetectable viral load

The key to an undetectable viral load involves using HIV treatment every day. In many cases, this can be as straightforward as taking one pill a day and checking in with a specialist HIV doctor once every three to six months. HIV medicines have come a long way since the early days of the epidemic, and while preventing onward transmission of HIV is an impressive outcome, the primary benefit of starting and staying on treatment is to keep someone healthy.

All about U=U: Maintaining an undetectable viral load | Part 3/3

When it comes to HIV, U=U

From the history of undetectable viral load to understanding all about HIV today, we’ve come a long way. And while the science evolves at a rapid pace, attitudes towards HIV and people who live with the virus haven’t always kept up.

At Emen8, we understand not everyone embraces change as rapidly as it’s occurring in today’s world of biomedical HIV prevention. If you’d like to understand more about new developments, options for you to protect yourself in ways that work for you, or even the chance to chat with someone for non-judgmental advice and info, check out these articles and hit us up on Facebook, via Messenger, or contact us.