The PARTNER study looks at HIV transmission risk in couples -- both gay and straight -- where one person is on HIV treatment and has an undetectable viral load and the other is HIV negative. On July 12, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) published the striking finding that, even after 58,000 sex acts by 1166 couples not using condoms, there were no cases of HIV transmission between them. Zero. None.
After so many years of fear and loss during the HIV epidemic, it can be hard to believe even extremely good and well-proven news. Throw in a hefty dose of persistent and pernicious HIV stigma, and it's not surprising to see a lot of resistance to spreading the word about this revolution.
TheBody.com offers these tools for sharing the news about the new era of HIV prevention that includes treatment as prevention (TasP) and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Q&A on the PARTNER Study: How to Interpret the Zero Transmission Results
HIV i-Base explains the results: There were zero HIV transmissions within couples when the HIV-positive partner's viral load was undetectable, and there is firm proof that the few transmissions that did happen came from a third person outside the relationship.
In the Q&A, Simon Collins, a longtime treatment writer, spells out how people can benefit from these results:
- HIV-positive people can be less anxious and concerned that they are a risk to their partners whenever they have sex. This can still be a worry, even when using condoms.
- HIV-negative people can be less anxious about risk. Even when using condoms, this residual risk can limit full sexual enjoyment.
- Less anxiety and fear can help with closer communication and better sex. For many people, good sex is an important and essential part of life.
- Some people might enjoy not using condoms in a way that wasn't possible when they still worried about HIV.
- Sero-different couples that want to have children can conceive without the need for additional PrEP.
- Reducing fear about HIV transmission might reduce the stigma and rejection that HIV-positive people encounter when meeting new partners.
- Legal cases in which HIV is considered theoretical rather than actual risk will hopefully become more rare. The results might enable some people to launch an appeal.
Zero: No Linked HIV Transmissions in PARTNER Study After Couples Had Sex 58,000 Times Without Condoms
Thanks to HIV I-Base for also providing a clinical overview of these results. Great information to take with you on your next provider visit to help spread the word and counter misinformation!
The PARTNER study "provides the strongest estimate of actual risk of HIV transmission when an HIV-positive person has [an] undetectable viral load -- and that this risk is effectively zero."
PrEP and HIV Treatment as Prevention: A Quick Primer on Two Hot Topics (Video)
Check out and share this cute and concise animation that summarizes the new world of HIV prevention:
Stopping the transmission of HIV is not solely the job of either people with HIV or those who are HIV negative. And it may be easier than you think, thanks to medication that can both treat and prevent HIV:
- People with HIV can completely stop transmission of the virus just by adhering to their HIV medications, in the vast majority of cases. This is known as "treatment as prevention," or TasP.
- HIV-negative people can prevent HIV just by taking a once-a-day pill that blocks HIV. This is called pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
HIV Prevention: What People With HIV Need to Know
Thanks to Roger Pebody for this sharp and direct new guide to sex for people with HIV, explaining that:
There is a whole range of ways in which you can lower the risk of passing on HIV while still having pleasurable sex.
It is important to know that -- in biological terms -- HIV is not a virus that transmits easily. It is not passed on during each and every sexual act. In fact, more often than not, HIV is not passed on, even when no form of protection has been used.
The most important thing for anyone to understand about HIV prevention today is that sex with an HIV-positive person who has an undetectable viral load is safer sex. If your HIV treatment is working well, then the sex you have is protected sex.
Sometimes a personal story can make all the difference in understanding the meaning of research findings.
Here's an article and a video -- and we'll be adding many more in the weeks and months ahead. Want to share your story about what it means to have an undetectable viral load or use new methods of HIV prevention such as treatment as prevention or PrEP? Contact us!
How One Man Found Freedom Through an Undetectable HIV Viral Load
From our contributing editor Heather Boerner comes a story about Bruce Richman of the Prevention Access Campaign. She writes:
[T]o Bruce Richman, an undetectable viral load means freedom -- emotional freedom from self-condemning voices, but also freedom to love, freedom to give himself the intimacy he's craved since before his HIV diagnosis.
That one word, "undetectable," was the permission he needed to love again.
"I'm at a place where I've spent 13 years with HIV, but it no longer stands between me and someone I love," he said. "Undetectable is something monumental in the history of HIV."
Why I'm Part of the HIV Undetectable = Uninfectious Campaign (Video)
Josh Middleton knows his undetectable HIV viral load means he is not at risk of transmitting HIV, and he shares his story in this powerful video. He says:
Through my work as an HIV advocate, my influence as a social media blogger and my passion to help others, I feel it's my duty to get the correct information to the masses. We are living in a time where other safe sex strategies exist for HIV prevention. [Treatment as prevention] is revolutionizing the HIV prevention arena as we know it. Instead of fighting it because of fear, we need to take the opinion out of the conversation and accept what science has and continues to prove time and time again: Undetectable truly does equal uninfectious, and that's why I'm part of the U=U campaign.
JD Davids is the managing editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.