‘Effectively Zero’: Study Shows Antiretroviral Therapy Blocks HIV Transmission

Henrietta Brewer
May 5, 2019

Its findings add to an earlier phase of the study which looked at HIV transmission risk for serodifferent heterosexual couples who also did not use condoms.

Study shows people who control their HIV infections to undetectable viral levels cannot transmit the disease to others.

Researchers tested 1,000 gay male couples - one HIV positive and taking antiretroviral drugs to suppress the virus and the other HIV negative - and found no cases of transmission over eight years. In this study alone, for example, the researchers estimate that the suppressive antiretrovial treatment prevented around 472 HIV transmissions during the eight years.

'They support the message. that an undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable.

The findings support the global U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable) campaign, which has argued that effective ART means people with the virus can have sex without the fear of transmitting it to partners.


The authors of the study, the largest of its kind and published in The Lancet, stressed the importance of regular monitoring and supporting people with long-term adherence to therapy.

The scientists added that ART proved just as effective for gay couples as it had for heterosexual couples. The men involved in the study had frequent follow-ups where they completed questionnaires on their sexual behaviour. HIV screenings and behavior surveys were conducted throughout the study, along with genetic testing to definitively link any newly identified HIV infection to its source.

Researchers did note that a drawback of the study was that most of the couples had already been having sex without condoms for more than six months before the start of observations.

According to UNAIDS, there were approximately 36.9 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS in 2017, and children younger than 15 years of age made up 1.8 million of those cases.

"Our findings provide conclusive evidence that the risk of HIV transmission through anal sex when HIV viral load is suppressed is effectively zero".


A new study shows HIV treatment eliminates the risk of passing on the virus to others.

"We think that the findings from this study could be incredibly powerful in breaking down some of the barriers to testing in communities where there is still a lot of stigma around HIV".

Alison Rogers, the co-author of the study, said in a statement that the results are a "powerful message [that] can help end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission, and tackling the stigma and discrimination that many people with HIV face".

In March, a London hospital patient became the second person in the world to be "cured" of HIV after experimental treatment, doctors said.


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