On 27th, of September, National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness day, The Centers for Disease Control finally joined the chorus of world governments in addressing the facts about HIV viral load suppression and transmission but we’re are not celebrating…and neither should you. We addressed many of our concerns after their first tepid statement on 7th, September. But this second “memo” is not much better.
“Scientific advances have shown that antiretroviral therapy (ART) preserves the health of people living with HIV. We also have strong evidence of the prevention effectiveness of ART. When ART results in viral suppression, defined as less than 200 copies/ml or undetectable levels, it prevents sexual HIV transmission. Across three different studies, including thousands of couples and many thousand acts of sex without a condom or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), no HIV transmissions to an HIV-negative partner were observed when the HIV-person was virally suppressed. This means that people who take ART daily as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner.”
We at GMJ are pleased that the American Federal Government has begun to embrace this small piece of science regarding HIV transmission and admitting that those living with an undetectable HIV viral load are not infectious, but we are not celebrating this statement for a few major reasons:
- The United States considers itself to be a leader and even innovator in the realms of science and technology. But this statement lagged behind other developed nations and cost many gay men information, education and stigma at a time they needed support from their government.
- The statement is weak and there is little to no mass market publication for this information. It is not on the local news, they took out no major ads and there is no major campaign on-line, in schools, doctors’ offices or public transport to educate as many guys as they spent decades scaring the shit out of.
- The statement does not address the major issue of national HIV criminalization laws, which are not based on science but fear stoked from the early 1980s. We have learned so much more about this virus in the last 40 years regarding transmission and we need the CDC to assist in changing laws and policy regarding this illness.
- If you click on the provided link, you will see that the CDC spends more time giving statistics about the high rates of infection within our community, forgetting or ignoring the fact that they did, and continue to cause most of it. Infection is based on lack of knowledge and testing. Stigma is based off of fear and shame. All of these concepts have been promoted by the CDC themselves. A tepid memo will not undo this damage. Only a full stop and reversal will be acceptable.
- Karma. The American government was very late in addressing AIDS and many of our brothers died for no reason. The CDC has a duty to act and re-act at a faster pace to make up for all of the damage they have caused each and every gay man in America, as their dereliction of duty has made us all infected/effected/affected by this illness.
- The CDC, still found a way to undermine their own statement by saying “effectively no risk“, instead of saying “no possible risk“, knowing that many will not understand this qualifier. These three small words, for many. will negate anything else printed.
- The CDC NEVER STATES U=U! They have not joined the campaign, like the City of New York, and never say that those undetectable are uninfectious. Simple words, but never typed.
- The CDC spends a great deal of their letter patting themselves on the back for the work they claim to do and the funds they dole out, but if they are so effective, why are HIV infection rates, especially in communities of colour either on the rise or holding steady?
- Finally, we deserve so much more from our government and our tax dollars.
Now, you may be celebrating, but do understand that this statement means nothing if the CDC cannot convince gay men to forget what they have been told by the American government for a generation and start excepting science and end HIV stigma, increase testing and treatment programming. This is why non-profits have been doing the work that our government refuses to do. Be happy, but do not be content.
Here is a great article about HIV criminalization laws and how #uequalsu can assist in updating law and policy.