HIV is an infection that can affect anyone – no matter a person’s age, sex, gender, ethnicity, or sexuality. HIV can only be passed on by these five bodily fluids:
Who can get HIV? HIV can impact everyone; it just depends on behaviours that may let HIV into your body. Having unprotected sex, chestfeeding (1), and sharing needles, are all ways that HIV can be transmitted.
Although there is still no cure, HIV treatment has become so powerful that it reduces the amount of HIV that a person has in their blood – this is called a viral load. In fact, HIV treatment lowers the person’s viral load so much that HIV can no longer be transmitted by having unprotected sex with someone.
When a person living with HIV receives regular HIV treatment and cannot transmit HIV to another person, this is what is commonly known as Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U).
A person who is undetectable still has HIV and is still HIV positive but to be undetectable means that the viral load cannot be detected through HIV tests. That is, if somebody receiving HIV treatment got an HIV test, the result may come back negative because of how well the treatment works to reduce the viral load.
It usually takes most people with HIV three to six months of HIV treatment to reach the level where their HIV is undetectable. To stay undetectable, it is important to take the HIV medication consistently; skipping many doses of HIV treatment may cause the viral load to increase and the HIV may become transmissible. The only way to know if a person’s HIV is undetectable is through frequent viral load tests. People can get their viral load tested through their HIV doctor/care team.
There’s significant research supporting U=U: both the PARTNER Study, and the HPTN 052 study showed no HIV transmissions between undetectable partners and HIV negative partners. The Prevention Access Campaign (an international group of HIV advocates activists, and researchers) has a list of researchers that have endorsed the U=U message.