A recent study reveals that condomless sex with an HIV positive person is extremely unlikely to transmit the virus if the infected person is undetectable for over 6 months and on HIV treatment
The arsenal of tools in the fight against the spread of HIV has just been strengthened. A new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicates that a person will not become infected with HIV from an HIV-positive partner that has been undetectable for over six months and who continues to take HIV medication.
The study looked at eight hundred and eighty-eight serodiscordant couples (couples where one person is HIV-positive and one is HIV-negative) of which three hundred and forty were gay men. The HIV-positive person in the couple was using antiretroviral therapy (ART) and virologically suppressed, or ‘undetectable’.
The study took place over the course of four years from 2010 to 2014, with the average length of participation being 1.3 years. The study was executed in fourteen EU countries, and over forty thousand incidences of condomless sex were reported by the couples.
The findings of the study indicate “a 93 per cent reduction in risk of transmission” of HIV to those participating in the study.
The study found that eleven of the eight hundred and eighty-eight participants did become infected with HIV.
However, the 7 per cent of those in the study that did become infected with HIV were found not to have been infected by their partner who was on ART.This was determined by comparing the DNA of the strain of the virus that their partner already had with that of the virus that they then contracted.
This was determined by comparing the DNA of the strain of the virus that their partner already had with that of the virus that they then contracted.
None of the eleven newly infected members of this study had been infected with the same strain as their partner, indicating that it was contracted from other sources such as condomless sex with other people.
Although one of the authors of the report has called the risk “minimal”, JAMA elaborates that “the risk is not zero and the actual number is not known, especially for higher-risk groups such as MSM,” or Men who have Sex with Men.
ART for those infected with HIV joins PrEP, PEP, condom use and other safe-sex practices as an effective tool in the fight for preventing the spread of the virus.
“This leads to them being virally suppressed and makes it nearly impossible for them to transmit the virus. Not only antiretrovirals help lead to an optimum health outcome, but they also act as prevention.”
This is good news for serodiscordant couples who up to this point have had to rely on other methods to prevent HIV infection.
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