What Does Undetectable = Untransmittable Mean
“Undetectable” means that a test cannot detect the virus in the blood of a person living with HIV, although extremely small amounts of HIV are still present. Someone who takes HIV treatment and is “undetectable” for 6 or more continuous months does not transmit the virus through sex.
Undetectable also means the virus is being well controlled by HIV meds. If a person with undetectable HIV stops their medications, the virus will return to a detectable level, which then increases the risk of transmission.
Do I Still Need To Worry About Other Sexually Transmitted Infections
Neither HIV treatment nor PrEP prevents other sexually transmitted infections, or STIs.
Ways to reduce the risk of STIs include having both partners tested, limiting the number of sexual partners and using condoms. Vaccines are available to prevent some STIs, including hepatitis B and human papillomavirus .
Taking Hiv Medication To Stay Healthy And Prevent Transmission
If you have HIV, it is important to start treatment with HIV medication as soon as possible after your diagnosis.
If taken every day, exactly as prescribed, HIV medication can reduce the amount of HIV in your blood to a very low level. This is called viral suppression. It is called viral suppression because HIV medication prevents the virus from growing in your body and keeps the virus very low or suppressed. Viral suppression helps keep you healthy and prevents illness.
If your viral load is so low that it doesnt show up in a standard lab test, this is called having an undetectable viral load. People living with HIV can get and keep an undetectable viral load by taking HIV medication every day, exactly as prescribed. Almost everyone who takes HIV medication daily as prescribed can achieve an undetectable viral load, usually within 6 months after starting treatment.
There are important health benefits to getting the viral load as low as possible. People living with HIV who know their status, take HIV medication daily as prescribed, and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long, healthy lives.
There is also a major prevention benefit. People living with HIV who take HIV medication daily as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partners.
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What Is Effective Treatment
We are using the term effective treatment to mean that someone is on treatment, taking it as prescribed and has an undetectable viral load. In the UK this is usually classed as a viral load below 20 copies/ml.
The Partners PrEP study found that there remains a transmission risk within the first six months of treatment as the HIV positive partners viral load takes time to come down.
Therefore effective treatment means someone has been taking it as prescribed for at least six months and has an undetectable viral load.
Over 90% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK are on effective treatment and undetectable, and therefore are not infectious .
What Is An Undetectable Viral Load
- Taking antiretroviral treatment reduces the amount of HIV in your body.
- With proper adherence, ART can reduce HIV to such low levels that the virus can no longer be detected in normal blood tests. This is called having an undetectable viral load.
- People with undetectable viral loads cant pass HIV on through sex.
- To know that youre undetectable, you must have your viral load monitored regularly.
- Remember your viral load can change. If you stop taking your treatment properly your viral load will go up again.
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How Hiv Treatment Stops Hiv Being Passed On
- A person with HIV who is taking treatment and has an undetectable viral load cannot pass on HIV.
- Pre-exposure prophylaxis is a course of HIV drugs taken by an HIV negative person to lower the chance of infection. When taken correctly, PrEP significantly reduces the chances of becoming HIV positive.
- Post-exposure prophylaxis is a month-long course of HIV medication taken by an HIV negative person after possible exposure to reduce the chance of getting HIV. When started in time, PEP can stop HIV infection after sex without a condom with someone who has a detectable viral load but it doesnt work every time.
How Do I Talk To My Partner About Their Risk Of Acquiring Hiv
People living with HIV can involve their partners in their treatment plans. Research shows that adhering to treatment often can improve with support from loving relationships and from the community.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis , in which an HIV-negative person takes antiretroviral medication to prevent infection, can be part of the conversation. Learn more about PrEP.
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British Hiv Association Advice
The ‘Undetectable equals Untransmittable’ campaign is supported by the British HIV Association , which is the professional association for doctors and other healthcare professionals working in HIV in the UK.
BHIVA says consistent use of HIV treatment to maintain an undetectable viral load is a highly effective way to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV.
BHIVA says healthcare professionals should share this information with all people living with HIV. It advises healthcare professionals to explain the scientific evidence behind U=U, emphasising the importance of excellent adherence to HIV treatment and highlighting that U=U is dependent on maintaining a sustained undetectable viral load.
What Can I Do To Support My Partner
In addition to offering emotional support when its needed, I think the most important thing you can do to support your partner is to help them take their medications every day, says Gandhi. Its really something that can be helped with partnerships. This has been confirmed in studies that look at how regularly people with HIV take their medications.
Wohlfeiler agrees that its essential to help your partner remember to take their medication consistently for their health and for yours. We recommend everything from reminders on their cell phone to putting it in the kitchen next to the cereal or on the night table, so they get these cues to take it, he says. I think the negative partner often has a fairly active role in saying, Did you take your medicine?
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Can My Viral Load Continue To Change
Yes, your viral load can continue to change. This would usually be a result of factors to do with your adherence , or other health issues. Regular viral load monitoring will help you stay on top of these changes, so you can manage your health accordingly.
Your viral load usually drops quickly after first starting treatment, however it may be a while before it reaches a point where its undetectable. Most people who adhere properly to their treatment become undetectable after about six months, but its important that you have a viral load test to confirm this.
While changes to viral load can occur, they should be relatively uncommon for people who adhere properly to their medication and are otherwise in good health. Your viral load monitoring appointments are there to help you to identify and respond to any changes in your viral load.
These appointments also give you time to discuss any difficulties you are having with your medication. Often big life changes, like starting a new relationship or moving to a new place, can make adherence more difficult. Your healthcare worker can help you with any new challenges and work with you to stay healthy and keep your viral load low.
After I Begin Hiv Treatment How Long Does It Take For The Risk Of Sexually Transmitting Hiv To Become Effectively Zero
There is effectively no risk of sexual transmission of HIV when the partner living with HIV has achieved an undetectable viral load and then maintained it for at least six months. Most people living with HIV who start taking antiretroviral therapy daily as prescribed achieve an undetectable viral load within one to six months after beginning treatment.
A persons viral load is considered durably undetectable when all viral load test results are undetectable for at least six months after their first undetectable test result. This means that most people will need to be on treatment for 7 to 12 months to have a durably undetectable viral load. It is essential to take every pill every day to maintain durably undetectable status.
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If I Am Undetectable And There Is A Blip In My Viral Load Am I Still Untransmittable
Yes, you are still untransmittable. Sometimes, even when you take your medication every day, the HIV viral load test notes that it can “see” or “detect” virus in your blood. This is commonly known as a viral “blip”. Depending on the laboratory, a “blip” is usually between 16 and 199 copies in some viral load tests. In other viral load tests this “blip” would not have even been found or detected, which would still be in the negligible risk range. These 16 to 199 copy viral “blips” have not been shown to increase the transmission of HIV, but the viral load test should always be repeated because sometimes it is an early sign that the ART medication is losing its power to suppress the virus. Most of the time, though, viral load goes back to undetectable levels without any changes in treatment.
Causes Of Hiv Infection
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person. This includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk.
It’s a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long.
HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine or saliva.
The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is through having anal or vaginal sex without a condom.
Other ways of getting HIV include:
- sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment
- transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding
The chance of getting HIV through oral sex is very low and will be dependent on many things, such as whether you receive or give oral sex and the oral hygiene of the person giving the oral sex.
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Legal Remedies For An Undisclosed Hiv Infection
Depending on the state, knowingly transmitting an HIV infection to another person can end in a prison sentence. While criminal charges will punish wrongdoing, civil suits primarily focus on giving just compensation to a harmed person. An undetectable viral load is not a defense if a sexual partner somehow transmits HIV.
While HIV is no longer the death sentence it was 20-30 years ago. Antiretroviral therapy medications and doctors visits are incredibly expensive. This is why patients can seek monetary damages from those who transmitted the infection.
What Role Do Condoms Play In Hiv Prevention
Condoms are very effective at preventing HIV transmission when used properly, but they generally arent necessary in a monogamous relationship if your partners HIV treatment is effective and youve both been screened for other STDs, such as syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia.
If your relationship isnt monogamous, I would recommend condoms to protect your partner, especially if they dont know youre nonmonogamous, because of the STD risk , says Gandhi. Yeah, theyre treatable, but they can have harmful effects, including significant discomfort, she notes. And, of course, using condoms helps protect you from getting HIV from other sexual partners.
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How Often Should I Have My Viral Load Checked
A key part of U=U is remaining engaged in ongoing medical care. If you are using your undetectable status as an HIV prevention method,, it is advisable that you check with your doctor and consider having your viral load tested with the frequency they recommend. No matter what your HIV status is, your sexual health is important and deserves regular attention. If your partner is on pre-exposure prophylaxis , consider scheduling your quarterly medical visits at similar times. If either of you has other sexual partners, these quarterly visits are a good chance to get checked for sexually transmitted infections and keep up to date with your other health screenings.
My Boyfriend Hid His Hiv Status From Me
Illustration by Jack Raybuck
Dear Dan:I could really use your advice. I recently found my boyfriends HIV meds while I was house sitting for him and went into his cupboard for a multivitamin. Weve been dating for a year and I had assumed he was negative. Im negative myself and on PrEP and he is undetectable, so I know there is essentially zero risk of me getting infected, but we agreed to some degree of openness at the start of the relationshiphaving threesomes togetherand I recently found a guy wed like to invite over. Im trying to get over the feeling of betrayal from the fact that my boyfriend hid his status from me for so long but Im fine with continuing the relationship knowing his status now. The thing is, he told me that only five people on earth know and his mother, who he talks to almost every day, isnt one of them. He says being poz has really fucked with his self-esteem and that he has had suicidal thoughts because of his status. Is it unreasonable for me to expect him to disclose his status to guys who join us in bed? What about asking him to share with a therapist or come out as poz to his mother? I really love him and just want him to be happy and healthy.
Wannabe Ethical And Supportive Slut
Dear WEASS: If youre worrying about HIV at the moment, WEASS, youre worrying about the wrong virus. Unless youre lucky enough to live in New Zealand, you and the boyfriend shouldnt be inviting men over for threesomes right now.
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What Does Undetectable Equals Untransmittable Mean
U=U is the name of a public health campaign that has really taken off in the last year and is accepted and endorsed by organizations worldwide. It shares the message that people who are undetectable do not transmit HIV to other people.
This campaign promotes key medical information that is important for people living with HIV to know, but it is also an important concept that reduces HIV stigma in the community. The phrase really encompasses an idea that people who are living with HIV can be free from HIV stigma, and can live their lives more fully, with less fear, worry, and inhibition.
Testing Positive On Hiv Antibody Tests
Since the early days of the HIV epidemic, we have used antibody tests to test for HIV. Antibody tests are the most affordable and accessible HIV tests. They are the most common types of HIV tests at testing sites around the world because they provide rapid, on-the-spot results.
Antibody tests do not detect HIV. Instead, they detect antibodies that the immune system produces in response to HIV infection.
WHAT ARE ANTIBODIES?
Our immune systems develop antibodies in response to all kinds of pathogens. Anytime you get sick or get any kind of infection, your body builds up a defense system and creates antibodies to try and fight that specific infection off. If these antibodies are successful, some infections will go away but the antibodies never do. They will remain in your body, helping to protect you from getting the same infection in the future.
In this way, antibodies allow our bodies to remember a specific infectious agentlike a particular strain of the fluand then respond to it more quickly if exposed to it again in the future. Once we develop antibodies to a virus we may have those antibodies for life or for many years.
HIV ANTIBODIES WHEN YOURE UNDETECTABLE
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What We Know About Hormone And Steroid Injecting
Hormone and steroid injections can be done safely by a health care provider. But theres a chance that someone can get or transmit HIV if an HIV-negative person uses needles, syringes, or other injection equipment after someone with HIV has used them. This is because the needles, syringes, or other injection equipment may have blood in them, and blood can carry HIV. Likewise, youre at risk for getting or transmitting hepatitis B and C if you share syringes because these infections are also transmitted through blood.
More Information About 1 out of every 10 HIV diagnoses in the United States is among people who inject drugs. This includes gay and bisexual men who inject drugs. On average, an HIV-negative person has a 1 in 420 chance of getting HIV from a needlestick if the needle or syringe contains HIV-infected blood.
More Information There may be extremely tiny amounts of blood in syringes or works that you may not be able to see, but could still carry HIV. Be aware that HIV can survive in a used syringe for up to 42 days depending on temperature and other factors.
There are medicines to treat hepatitis B. If youve never had hepatitis B, theres a vaccine to prevent it. There are medicines to treat hepatitis C, but they arent right for everyone. Theres no vaccine to prevent hepatitis C. Talk to your health care provider to learn more about hepatitis B and C.
At What Stage Of The Infection Can Hiv Be Transmitted
Someone with HIV can pass on the virus if they have a detectable viral load.
This often happens during the first few months after infection when the levels of the virus in their body fluids are at their highest and they may not yet have been diagnosed.
This is why testing and early diagnosis are so important you can start treatment right away to protect your health and reduce your viral load to undetectable levels.
If the person with HIV has a detectable viral load, the virus is free to enter the HIV negative persons bloodstream. This can happen during vaginal and anal sex .
It can also happen when an object that has body fluids on it is put inside an HIV negative person during sex.
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