A landmark study has further confirmed evidence that an HIV positive person has zero chance of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner if they are taking antiretroviral therapy medication, helping to put an end to the stigma of gay and bisexual men.
Nearly 1,000 gay couples, where one person was taking medication for HIV and one person did not have the virus, took part in the study and no cases of transmission from a person taking medication were recorded.
During the course of the PARTNER study, 15 people did contract HIV but not from their main partner who was taking antiretroviral drugs.
Professor Alison Rodger, University College LondonThe co-leader of the paper, Professor Alison Rodger from University College London, welcomed the outcome of The Lancet published study, and insisted that although the study simply concretises already known knowledge, it also helps to end the health stigma that is attached to gay and bisexual men.
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.
Professor Alison Rodger, University College London
“Our findings support the message that an undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable,” Rodger said.
“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.”
The Othering And PrEP
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For GBT+ men, HIV and AIDS have been one of the many barriers to acceptance, largely in part to the 1980s epidemic. The stigma that is attached to the virus and the higher frequency that it appears in gay and bisexual men has created a division in the way it is treated.
In recent years, an HIV preventative drug called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) was developed and is now available in England to around 10,000 people that the NHS considers most “at risk” of contracting HIV, as part of a trial.
The trial has focussed on recruiting men who have sex with men (MSM), trans men and women, and others considered at high risk of HIV acquisition. According to the Terrence Higgins Trust, an LGBTQ+ health charity, in 2017 just over half of the people diagnosed were gay or bisexual men.
It is impossible to overstate the importance of the findings about this crucial treatment.
Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust
The introduction of PrEP to the NHS became a controversial issue, as the NHS claimed it did not have enough money to run it, and would favour other rare and expensive medications and treatment. The decision was overturned after a legal battle – but campaigners are still fighting for PrEP, which could see transmissions of HIV further plummet, to be fully rolled out.
Studies like PARTNER help to boost the argument for PrEP to be made widely available, while also eliminating HIV stigma, campaigners have said.
“It is impossible to overstate the importance of the findings about this crucial treatment,” explained Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, in a statement provided to RightsInfo.
“The PARTNER study has given us the confidence to say, without doubt, that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners. This has incredible impact on the lives of people living with HIV and is a powerful message to address HIV-related stigma.”
A Global Problem
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The findings demonstrate the importance of ensuring that treatment is available to all people globally living with HIV.
Monty Moncrieff, CEO of London Friend
As well as destigmatisation in the UK, Rodger believes that the study will help the push to create access to antiretroviral drugs globally.
“Increased efforts must now focus on wider dissemination of this powerful message and ensuring that all HIV-positive people have access to testing, effective treatment, adherence support and linkage to care to help maintain an undetectable viral load,” she said.
“The findings demonstrate the importance of ensuring that treatment is available to all people globally living with HIV,” added Monty Moncrieff, the CEO of LGBT+ health and support charity London Friend.