According to the results of a new study published in the Lancet, we appear to be on the brink of eliminating AIDS.
A new study of nearly 1000 male couples (in which one partner received treatment to suppress the HIV virus) found that there were zero cases in which the HIV-negative partner contracted HIV during unprotected sexual contact.
No transmission. None. Zero. Nada.
Fifteen men who participated in the study were infected with HIV, however DNA testing concluded that they contracted HIV from someone other than their partner who was participating in the study.
According to The Guardian:
“It’s brilliant – fantastic. This very much puts this issue to bed,” said Prof Alison Rodgers from University College London, the co-leader of the paper published in the Lancet medical journal. Earlier studies have also shown the treatment protects heterosexual couples where one partner has HIV.
She added: “Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART [antiretroviral therapy] is zero. Our findings support the message of the international U=U campaign that an undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable.
“This powerful message can help end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission, and tackling the stigma and discrimination that many people with HIV face.
“Increased efforts must now focus on wider dissemination of this powerful message and ensuring that all HIV-positive people have access to testing, effective treatment, adherence support and linkage to care to help maintain an undetectable viral load.”
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Part of the problem with HIV/AIDS diagnosis is people getting tested for it in the first place. There are in-home tests available online, with HIV tests running as little as $35, however there is a stigma surrounding sexual health, as the chief executive of the National Aids Trust Deborah Gold explained to The Guardian:
The latest findings reinforce the importance of people taking HIV tests frequently, which could ultimately end the transmission of the virus altogether in the future. New diagnoses have been declining since their peak in 2005, with figures from 2017 showing a 17% drop on 2016 and a 28% fall compared with 2015.
Late diagnosis remains a major challenge, still accounting for about 43% of new HIV diagnoses. This disproportionately affects certain groups, including black African heterosexual men and people aged 65 and older.
“If we don’t reduce late diagnosis, there will always be those who are not aware of their HIV status and who therefore cannot access treatment,” said Gold. “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.”
Read the full paper here.