Is This the End of AIDS?

The conclusion of a new landmark study could be some of the best long-awaited news in the medical world as a new antiretroviral drug was found to completely suppress HIV infection—so that it does not infect their sexual partner—in men who have the infection. 

The study looked at approximately 1,000 male couples across Europe, in which one partner with HIV was being treated with drugs to suppress the virus.  In all instances, there was no evidence of HIV transmission from the HIV+ to the HIV- partner during sex without a condom.  While 15 of these men would become infected with HIV over the eight years of the study, DNA testing proved that these instances were from sex with a different partner than the one who was taking the treatment. 

That in mind, study author Alison Rodger, of the University College London, commented, “It’s brilliant—fantastic. This very much puts this issue to bed. Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART is zero.”

Earlier studies have also shown similar results among heterosexual couples.  As such, she adds, “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 untransmissable.”

In all, then, this supports the evidenced that undetectable viral load translates to an HIV that is untransmittable.  This, she says, can help us to end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission, as a whole, and tackle the stigma and the discrimination that many people living with HIV face, every day. 

And this community is approximately 40 million-strong, around the world.  Of those 40 million, slightly more than half (about 21.7 million) were on antiretroviral treatment in 2017.  

Rodger concludes, “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.”

The results of this study have been published in the medical journal Lancet.