A European study published in the Lancet is the latest confirmation that taking HIV meds and having an undetectable status stops sexual transmission of the virus, Reuters reports.
The study followed nearly 1,000 gay male serodiscordant couples, where one partner was HIV-positive and one was HIV negative, who had sex without condoms. After eight years of condomless sex, the study found no cases of HIV transmission within the couples.
“Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART is zero,” Alison Rodger, a professor at University College London, said.
This European study is the latest in a slew of clear scientific evidence that adhering to HIV medications and staying undetectable halts transmission of the virus. In 2016, researchers unveiled the results of the PARTNER study, which followed 1165 mixed-status couples — both same sex couples and opposite sex couples — over four years. The study also found no transmissions between couples where the partner who was HIV-positive was also undetectable.
The new European study also examined opposite-sex couples in an earlier phase of the study and similarly found zero risk of transmission.
In both this study and PARTNER, some gay men in the study did seroconvert during the years they were being monitored, but both studies found through phylogenetic testing that their virus did not come from their partner’s virus and instead came from sex with a partner outside the relationship.
In 2016, the Prevention Access Campaign launched the U=U campaign, or “Undetectable Equals Untransmittable.” The campaign was meant to raise awareness about the results of studies like PARTNER which prove that HIV-positive people on consistent medication cannot transmit HIV. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officially declared that undetectable equals untransmittable in a press release in 2017.
In 2008, Swiss researchers were the first to say in the Swiss Statement that people living with HIV who were undetectable could not transmit the virus. They released the statement because people living with HIV in their country were being criminalized for sex with HIV-negative partners even when sex was consensual. Even though the United States’ federal government has acknowledged that being undetectable means you cannot transmit the virus, stigma persists both socially and institutionally: 34 states currently have laws that criminalize people living with HIV.