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03.05.19

Ends of AIDs in sight as HIV-suppressing drugs succeed in making the virus ‘untransmittable’

HIV-suppressing drugs can now make the AIDS virus “untransmittable” even to sexual partners, and could lead to an end to the entire epidemic, a landmark study has found.

In a study of nearly 1,000 gay male couples across Europe where one partner with HIV was receiving treatment to suppress the virus, there were no cases of HIV transmission over eight years.

Antiretroviral (ART) treatment was able to reduce the virus to very low levels in the body and the research, published in The Lancet, said that if everyone with the HIV virus were fully treated, then there would be no further infections.

Professor Alison Rodger from the University College London, the co-leader of the paper, declared: “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. Our findings support the message of the international U=U campaign that an undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable.”

She described it as a “powerful message” that can help “end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission” as well as tackling the stigma and discrimination that many people with HIV face.

Rodger added that increased efforts must now focus on wider dissemination of this message, as well as ensuring all HIV-positive people have access to testing, treatment, support and linkage to care to help maintain an undetectable viral load.

In 2017 there were nearly 40 million people living with HIV worldwide, with over 100,000 of those living in the UK, but new diagnoses have been declining since their peak in 2005.

Although some of the couples did become infected with HIV during the study, genetic testing showed that none of viruses came from their main partner participating in the study.

 Image credit - nopparit

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