What Is An Undetectable Viral Load And What Is Viral Load Suppression
Viral load refers to the amount of HIV in a blood sample of a person living with HIV. Generally, the higher the viral load, the more likely you are to transmit HIV. Both undetectable and viral load suppression are extremely low measurements of HIV that are basically the same. Often, they are both used to describe the same important result of taking ART as prescribed by a healthcare provider: extremely low measurements of HIV in a blood sample.
Undetectable viral load: ART can reduce a persons viral load to the point where it is so low it cant be measured by laboratory tests. This is usually under 40 copies/mL but the exact definition of undetectable varies by test/region. This is called having an undetectable viral load, which prevents the sexual transmission of HIV while simultaneously improving the health of a person living with HIV. It does not fully clear the virus from the body or cure someone of HIV. Excellence adherence, or taking ART as prescribed by a healthcare provider, is important to maintain an undetectable viral load.
How Variable Is An Undetectable Viral Load Can This Change Over Time
HIV specialists have decades of experience managing antiretroviral therapy and are confident that you can remain uninfectious as long as you:
- take your medication every day as prescribed, and
- have your viral load checked regularly.
The presence of other sexually transmitted infections can potentially affect viral load, but in the PARTNER study there were no HIV transmissions even when other STIs were present. Those results held through the PARTNER 2 trial as well.
It is however important to remember that HIV treatment can only be successful if you have access to it and are taking it as prescribed.
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.
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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 95% of people diagnosed with HIV in the UK are on effective treatment and undetectable, and therefore are not infectious .
Can You Get Hiv From Someone Who Is Undetectable
According to the CDC, if you take your HIV medication regularly and reach the point where your viral load is undetectable, you have effectively no risk of transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
Having an undetectable viral load also helps prevent transmission to others through sharing needles, syringes, or other injection equipment though it doesnt eliminate it entirely.
If youre dating someone who has an undetectable viral load, youre not going to test positive for HIV just by having sex. That said, regular testing for HIV, especially if you have multiple sexual partners, is important.
Both the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease and the CDC promote HIV treatment as prevention. Undetectable = Untransmittable or U=U is the guiding principle.
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Does Everyone Who Starts Hiv Treatment Become And Remain Undetectable
Nearly everyone who starts ART finds a drug regimen that works within six months. About one out of six people will need additional time to find the right treatment due to possible side effects and adherence issues. Continuing treatment and getting regular viral load monitoring are important to maintain an undetectable viral load.
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HIV & AIDS. HIV is a disease that affects the immune system. The immune system is what helps us stay healthy and fight off infections. HIV = human immunodeficiency virus. It harms cells of the immune system, which over time impairs its ability to fight off infections. If untreated it can cause AIDS which. No. 4. Having vaginal sex : 1 in 1,250. Most women who get HIV are infected through vaginal sex. In such cases, an HIV-positive man transmits the virus to his.
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Dec 1, 2021, 7:03 AM. Charlie Sheen, Jonathan Van Ness, and Magic Johnson. Craig Barritt, Don Arnold, and Roy Rochlin / Getty. Since the HIV and AIDS crisis in the ’80s, stars have come forward to reveal they are HIV positive. Today, Jonathan Van Ness, Magic Johnson, and Charlie Sheen are living with HIV. “Pose” star Billy Porter revealed this. Growing evidence suggests that as HIV medicines become more efficacious, HIV-positive individuals taking antiretroviral medications are significantly less likely to transmit the virus to a sexual partner than someone not taking medication. In fact, in a study of almost 3,000 monogamous serodiscordant couples, it was found that with the use of.
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Causes Of Hiv Infection
It’s a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long.
HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine or saliva.
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.
Cdc Backing Could Help Lessen Stigma
Misinformation, stigma, and fear around HIV remains prevalent.
People diagnosed with HIV overestimate the risk of infecting their HIV-negative partner. Even though only 10 percent of participants in a recent survey had non-suppressed viral loads, a third of respondents believed their chance of infecting a partner was high, according to AIDSMAP.
We hope the CDCs endorsement of this fact helps lessen the stigma that still exists around people living with HIV, and that it encourages an open dialogue between sexual partners about their status, treatment, and prevention methods, said Sawyer.
Prevention Access Campaign has been a leader in education around the issue with the U=U campaign.
Advocates also hope the CDCs backing will provide additional leverage for challenging state nondisclosure laws, which criminalize HIV-positive people who dont disclose their HIV status.
Sawyer pointed out, The CDCs acknowledgement is a further indication that our laws around nondisclosure are no longer supported by the current accepted science and research about HIV transmission.
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Dont Breastfeed Your Baby
- Do not breastfeed your baby, even if you have an undetectable viral load. Having an undetectable viral load reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to the baby through breastfeeding but doesnt eliminate the risk.
- The current recommendation in the United States is that mothers with HIV should not breastfeed their babies.
You should also have a pelvic examination and get tested for other sexually transmitted diseases during your pregnancy.
If I have an undetectable viral load, do my partner and I need to use anything else to prevent sexual transmission of HIV?
Getting and keeping an undetectable viral load prevents HIV transmission during sex. But there are situations when either partner may want to use additional prevention options.
- Using condoms can help prevent some other STDs.
- Using condoms or having your partner take PrEP can provide added peace of mind.
- Also consider using additional prevention options if you
- Are unsure, for any reason, that you have an undetectable viral load
- Have a high viral load
- Have trouble taking HIV medicine regularly
- Missed some doses since your last viral load test or
- Have stopped taking HIV medicine or may do so in the future.
Keep Your Viral Load Undetectable
HIV treatment is not a cure and HIV is still in your body, even when your viral load is undetectable, so you need to keep taking your HIV medicine as prescribed. If you skip doses of your HIV medicine, even now and then, you give HIV the chance to multiply rapidly. This could weaken your immune system, and you could become sick.
If you have stopped taking your HIV medicine or are having trouble taking all the doses as prescribed, talk to your health care provider as soon as possible. Your provider can help you get back on track and discuss the best strategies to prevent transmitting HIV to your sexual partners until your viral load is confirmed to be undetectable again.
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What You Can Do
Not having sex is a 100% effective way to make sure you dont get or transmit HIV through sex. If youre sexually active, you can lower your risk for HIV by choosing sexual activities that carry a lower risk for HIV than vaginal sex. You can also do other things to reduce your risk, including taking medicine to prevent or treat HIV and using condoms the right way, every time. Condoms and medicine to prevent or treat HIV are highly effective at preventing HIV if used correctly. But the medicines are much less effective if you dont take them as prescribed, and condoms can sometimes break or come off during vaginal sex. Using a water-based lubricant can help prevent condoms from breaking or slipping.
Talking openly and frequently with your partner about sex can help you make decisions that may decrease your risk of getting or transmitting HIV. Learn more about how to get the conversation started.
- When was the last time you had an HIV test and what was the result of that test?
The only way to know for sure if you have HIV is to get tested. Before having sex for the first time, you and your partner may want to get tested for HIV and learn the results. Be aware that theres a window period, which is the time between when a person gets HIV and when most HIV tests will show that a person has it. If you have sex before you learn your test results, using a condom the right way every time you have sex can lower your risk for getting or transmitting HIV.
Do I Need To Disclose My Hiv Status To My Sex Partner If I Am Undetectable
As long as you have an undetectable viral load and you continue to take your ART as prescribed you are not putting your sex partners at risk. It is a highly personal decision whether or not to share your status with a partner. There is no single right answer to whether there is an ethical duty to share your status when you are not putting your partner at risk. However, you may want to consider the pluses and minuses of sharing your status for you and your partner. A partner may become upset if they learn about your status after sexual interaction and it can cause unnecessary interpersonal consequences even when several scientific studies have proven that there is no risk of transmission. Also, its extremely important to keep in mind that many discriminatory HIV criminalization laws exist in some states and parts of the world that require you to disclose your status even when there is no risk of transmission. To learn more about the HIV criminalization laws in your state and country, visit HIV Justice Network.
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What Is Treatment As Prevention
Treatment as Prevention refers to taking HIV medicine to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV. It is one of the most highly effective options for preventing HIV transmission.
People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral loada very low level of HIV in the bloodcan live long and healthy lives and will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex. This is sometimes called undetectable = untransmittable .
TasP works when a person with HIV takes HIV medicine exactly as prescribed and has regular follow-up care, including routine viral load tests to ensure their viral load stays undetectable.
What Does Untransmittable Mean
HIV can be transmitted through contact with bodily fluids from a person living with HIV to another. However, if a persons viral load is undetectable, it cannot be transmitted to another person. Therefore, undetectable = untransmittable.
One of the most common ways that HIV is transmitted is through sexual intercourse and contact with seminal, pre-seminal, vaginal, or rectal fluids. HIV can also be transmitted through blood via shared needles or blood transfusions. Finally, babies may contract HIV during birth or shortly thereafter, as HIV can be transmitted through vaginal birth or breastmilk.
There are several measures people can take to prevent HIV transmission.
The first is to practice safe sex by always using a condom and getting tested regularly for STDs and STIs. Another way to safeguard yourself from HIV transmission is by taking PrEP, a medication regimen that protects a person before they are exposed to HIV.
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Is It Safe To Breastfeed With Hiv
Maybe. Recommendations around this issue are complex and differ depending on the organization you consult and your access to resources like clean water, formula, and healthcare.
If a person with HIV wishes to breastfeed, they should speak with their doctor for additional guidance about their personal safety and risks.
Testing Positive On Nucleic Acid Tests
In addition to antibody tests, we also have HIV tests that detect viral RNA not necessarily live virus, but parts of the virus genetic material. These are called nucleic acid tests, and they are able to detect very early HIV infections. These tests are not used as often for screening as antibody tests , because results take longer and the test is more expensive. Usually, RNA tests are used to confirm an HIV positive diagnosis after someone tests positive on an antibody test or to see if a person is responding well to treatment.
Some of these viral detection tests are able to detect virus at very low levels. Some research HIV RNA assays can measure HIV RNA levels down to the single copy levels.
We commonly say someone is undetectable if they have a viral load less than 20 copies/mL or 50 copies/mL. Research studies have defined undetectable as any viral load less than 200 copies/mL.
So even if a person has a viral load less than 50 copies/mL or 20 copies/mL, viral RNA will still be detected with one of these viral detection tests.
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Are There Any Side Effects To Being On Hiv Medicines
HIV medicines can cause side effects for some people. Most are manageable. Fortunately, there are numerous HIV medicines available today that people can take without serious side effects. If you do experience any side effects it is important to discuss these with your healthcare provider.
What Is An Undetectable Viral Load
A person living with HIV has an undetectable viral load when antiretroviral treatment has brought the level of virus in their body to such low levels that blood tests cannot detect it. This medical advancement is a far cry from the early years of HIV when the disease sent panic rippling through the gay community and beyond.
The virus affects all sexual orientations, genders, races and income levels. Because of this, everyone has a responsibility to protect themselves when engaging in risky behavior.
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How Do You Get Your Viral Load To Undetectable And Keep It There
People with HIV can get and keep an undetectable viral load by taking HIV medicine exactly as prescribed. Almost everyone who takes HIV medicine as prescribed can reach an undetectable viral load, usually within six months after starting treatment. But treatment is not a cure. HIV is still in your body when your viral load is suppressed, even when it is undetectable. If you skip doses of your HIV medicine, even now and then, your viral load will quickly go back up. If you have stopped taking your HIV medicine or are having trouble with taking your doses as prescribed, talk to your health care provider as soon as possible about strategies to get your viral load suppressed.
If the HIV medicines you are taking dont suppress your viral load, you and your health care provider can talk about whether another combination of HIV medicines might work better for you. There are many different treatment options available.
How Can You Prevent Getting Or Transmitting Hiv Through Sex
If you have HIV, the most important thing you can do to prevent transmission and stay healthy is to take HIV medicine exactly as prescribed. People with HIV who take HIV medicine as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load can live long and healthy lives and will not transmit HIV to their HIV-negative partners through sex. This is sometimes called HIV treatment as prevention or undetectable = untransmittable . There also are other options to prevent transmitting HIV, below.
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