HIV breakthrough as study finds drugs prevent transmission

HIV cannot be sexually transmitted if effective treatment scientists say

HIV cannot be sexually transmitted if effective treatment scientists say

"Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART is zero", said Professor Alison Rodger from University College London, who co-led the research.

A groundbreaking advancement has been made in the fight against HIV: a study on HIV-carrying men found that the risk of viral transmission is zero if the virus is suppressed by antiretrovirals.

The Europe-wide study monitored almost 1,000 gay male couples over a period of eight years, where one partner was HIV-positive and receiving antiretroviral (ART) treatment, while the other was HIV negative.

An earlier study proved the same thing among heterosexual couples.

The authors of the study, the largest of its kind and published in The Lancet, stressed the importance of regular monitoring and supporting people with long-term adherence to therapy. The "undetectable=untransmittable" concept, shorthanded as "U=U", is relatively young campaign launched in 2016 to try to help explain that medical suppression of HIV so that its viral levels don't show up in blood tests means that it can not be transmitted to other people. It included almost 1,000 gay couples, each with one HIV-positive man and one without the virus. HIV-negative partners were regularly tested for the virus and HIV-positive partners were regularly tested to ensure that they were undetectable.

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. Over a period of eight years, there were no cases of the infection being sexually transmitted without a condom to the HIV-negative partner.

The study "adds to the clear and consistent evidence" that ART therapy suppresses the virus and blocks its transmission, Rachel Baggaley, the World Health Organization's coordinator for HIV prevention and testing, told the outlet.

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That said, Rodger stressed that condoms will continue to play a key role in safer sex.

ART therapy is a combination of drugs combined in a pill that prevents the HIV virus from replicating itself in the body, according to News Medical. Most new cases occur in gay men under the age of 25.

The UN goal is for 90 percent of HIV-positive people to know their status by 2020.

Rodgers could barely contain her enthusiasm for the results, saying that it represents a huge step forward for HIV-infected people.

"The findings demonstrate the universal personal and public health benefits of treatment of HIV", Cohen said, adding: "For the HIV-infected person, the sooner it is started the better".

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has more information about HIV and ART.

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