A new study on anti-retroviral treatment for people living with HIV claims to have been able to prevent the transmission of the virus. This study of the ART treatment according to an European study claims to have made the virus ‘untransmittable’ even among couples who have sex without using protection.
The study was conducted on 1,000 gay male couples who had sex without condoms where one partner had HIV and was taking antiretroviral drugs and the other who didn’t carry the virus.
After eight years of follow-up of the so-called serodifferent couples found no cases at all of HIV transmission within couples. Alison Rodger, a professor at University College London who co-led the research on this remarkable finding said, “Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART is zero’’.
‘’They support the message... 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’’ she added.
She said this “powerful message” could help end the HIV pandemic by preventing the virus’ transmission in high-risk populations.
The researchers in the study however also added that using antiretroviral therapy to suppress the AIDS virus to undetectable levels also means it cannot be passed on via sex.
Its findings add to an earlier phase of the study which looked at HIV transmission risk for serodifferent heterosexual couples in the same circumstances.
While 15 of the men among the 972 gay couples in this phase did become infected with HIV during the eight years of follow-up, genetic testing showed their infections were with strains of HIV acquired from another sexual partner.
Global health experts say the fight against HIV is at a precarious point, with the annual number of AIDS deaths falling with more receiving antiretroviral treatment rising. The number of new HIV infections still remains alarmingly high at around 1.8 million new cases a year worldwide, the study adds.
“Increasing access to HIV testing (and) ART ... remains critical for individuals and is central to the HIV public health response,” Rachel Baggaley, the World Health Organization’s coordinator for HIV prevention and testing added.
(With inputs from agencies)