Undetectable is Untransmittable
- People who are HIV-positive that follow their medication plan, see their health care provider regularly and maintain an undetectable viral load for at least six months cannot pass HIV on to their sexual partners.1,2,3,4,5
- An undetectable viral load means that the amount of HIV in the blood is so low, it cannot be measured. 1,3
- About 80% of HIV-positive people receiving regular HIV care and anti-retroviral therapy (ART) have an undetectable viral load.1
- Most people reach an undetectable viral load within six months of starting ART.1,4
- The only way to make sure you have an undetectable viral load is to be tested by your HIV care provider regularly – usually every three to six months.1,3
- If you stop taking your HIV medication, your viral load can increase, and you can begin spreading HIV to your partners, even if you were previously undetectable.1,3,4
- Even with an undetectable HIV viral load, you’re still vulnerable to other infections. Only condoms can prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.1,4
- What is HIV?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that damages the body’s immune system. HIV can be found in the blood, cum/pre-cum, vaginal fluid, or breast milk of an infected person. An uninfected person can get HIV if blood, cum/pre-cum, vaginal fluid, or breast milk from an infected person enters his body and gets into his bloodstream. HIV can enter the body through a vein (by IV drug use), the anus/vagina/penis/mouth (by unprotected sex), other mucous membranes (like the eyes or inside of the nose), or any open cuts/sores.
The immune system is made up of a group of cells and organs that keep the body healthy by fighting viruses and infections. CD4 cells, also known as T-cells, are one of the primary types of cells in this process. When someone is infected with HIV, the virus uses the individual’s CD4 cells to multiply. As a result, the cells are damaged and unable to function properly to keep the individual healthy. Over time, the number of healthy CD4 cells declines. When HIV has destroyed enough of the body’s CD4 cells, an individual can be diagnosed with AIDS – Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. This diagnosis means that the body’s immune system is no longer able to effectively fight off illness. Because of these other illnesses, an individual may become very sick or possibly die.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is the diagnosis related to the later stages of HIV infection. This diagnosis must be made by a health care provider, and is based upon several criteria. First, the individual must be infected with HIV. Next, either blood work shows that the person’s T-cell count is less than 200 cells per cubic centiliter of blood or the person has been diagnosed with one of several diseases, known as opportunistic infections that do not affect those with healthy immune systems.
Soon after infection, flu-like symptoms may be experienced, although some individuals will experience no symptoms. During the period between infection and AIDS diagnosis, there may be no other symptoms. For those infected with HIV, symptoms sometimes related to AIDS include unexplained weight loss or tiredness, flu-like feelings that don’t go away, diarrhea or white spots in mouth. There is a simple test that can determine if someone is infected with HIV, and only a doctor can diagnose someone with AIDS.
There are very effective treatments to slow down this process. However, there is currently no cure for HIV. Appropriate treatment is a critical part of maintaining good health for a long, long time.
- Talk to Your Sexual Partners
It is important to discuss your HIV status with your sexual partners. If you are HIV positive, Partner Services can help you disclose your status to your partners if you need help. For more information about Partner Services, please contact us.
- HIV Medication Facts
Below, you can find general information about the different types of HIV medication that are used to treat HIV. No one drug alone can provide effective HIV treatment, but there are one pill medications that are a combination of more than one drug that are effective in treating HIV.
When several medications are used in combination, they can effectively control HIV and maintain the health of your immune system.
- PIs (protease inhibitors)
- NRTIs (nucleoside or nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors)
- NNRTIs (non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors)
- Entry Inhibitors
- Integrase Inhibitors
- For more information on the most current HIV drugs, please visit www.thebody.com or www.aidsmeds.com, under the category “Treatment.”
- Protease Inhibitors (PI)
Protease inhibitors stop infected cells from reproducing the virus (blocking a protein called Protease which is necessary for production of infectious viral particles). The use of antiretroviral medications has dramatically changed the quality and quantity of life for persons living with HIV.
- Nucleoside or Nucleotide Reverse Transcriptase Inhibitors (NRTIs)
NRTIs block an enzyme needed by HIV to make copies of itself through a process called reverse transcription.
HIV uses reverse transcriptase to convert RNA into DNA. DNA is the genetic structure that makes us who we are. Once the virus’s DNA has been integrated into the body’s natural DNA, HIV becomes a lifelong infection. The NRTIs stop the virus’s ability to create its DNA inside the nucleus of a healthy human cell. Because HIV cannot infect that cell, this breaks the viral DNA replication chain.
- Entry Inhibitors (includes Fusion Inhibitors)
This class of drugs interferes with fusion and entry of the HIV virus into human CD4 cells (CD4 is a kind of cell that helps the body fight an infection). By blocking this step in HIV’s replication cycle, this drug can slow the progression from HIV infection to AIDS.
- Integrase Inhibitors
This class of antiretroviral drugs is designed to block the viral enzyme, called Integrase, which is responsible for inserting the virus into the body’s DNA to make copies of itself.
The Prevention Access Campaign is a community of people living with HIV, researchers, organizations and allies who want to spread the message of U=U. More than 800 organizations from 97 countries endorse the fact that HIV-positive people living with an undetectable viral load will not pass HIV along to their partners.5