A new medical study in Europe adds to the growing body of evidence that people on antiretroviral HIV medications with an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the virus to sexual partners.
The eight year study of almost 1,000 gay male serodiscordant couples (one partner HIV positive, one partner HIV negative) found no cases of HIV transmission. None of the couples used condoms during sex.
Alison Rodger, a professor at University College London who helped lead the study, said in a statement, “Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART (antiretroviral treatment) is zero.”
The summary of the study read, in part, “Our findings support the message of the U=U (undetectable equals untransmittable) campaign, and the benefits of early testing and treatment for HIV.”
The focus of the study, which followed participants from July 2010 to September 2017, was to assess the risk of HIV transmission between serodiscordant gay male couples who do not use condoms.
The report, published in the medical journal The Lancet, did show 15 men (of the 972 couples who took part in the research) became HIV+ during the 8 year study. But genetic testing revealed their infections were due to HIV strains from other sexual partners.
An earlier phase of the study followed serodiscordant heterosexual couples, which also showed no transmission of the HIV virus between partners.
Reuters reports that since the worldwide epidemic began in the early 1980s, over 77 million people have become HIV+, and nearly half (35.4 million) have died from resulting AIDS.
Thanks to the success of antiretroviral treatment, the annual number of deaths from AIDS has been falling. But, medical professionals are concerned that the rate of new infections has remained high with nearly 1.8 million new diagnoses each year.