So, here we are yet again. Another conference on HIV/AIDS, another series of studies released to the public. Another round of news outlets and Twitter reporting this new information. And still, somehow, even more of you refusing to believe it. Facts are facts gentlemen, and feelings are not facts. Guys with undetectable viral loads are non-infectious! (#uequalsu) Even the city of Paris and the UNAIDS has backed the message along with numerous nations and organizations. You can no longer bury your head in the sand to this new information. But, why would you want to? This is GREAT NEWS!!!
Paris was the host to the 2017 International Conference on HIV/AIDS. There were a lot of very interesting reports and studies about how the HIV virus is treated, transmitted as well as how it is not. The major finding was from a new study (“Opposites Attract”) which focused entirely on same-sex male couples from Thailand, Brazil, and Australia with mixed HIV statuses. When one partner is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative, they’re referred to as a serodiscordant couple.
As our friend Zack Ford reports for Thinkprogress.org:
Over the four years these couples were followed, the study captured about 12,000 condomless sex acts between an HIV-positive partner with an undetectable viral load and an HIV-negative partner who was not taking PrEP, medication that helps protect people from contracting the virus. There were zero HIV transmissions.
An additional 5,000 condomless sex acts took place between a partner with an undetectable viral load and a partner who was taking PrEP. There were zero HIV transmissions.
Of the 343 couples in the study, only three of the HIV-negative men contracted the virus, and genetic testing determined in all three cases that they didn’t actually get it from their partner.
The authors of the PARTNER study were able to conclude, based on the size of their data set, that there is a “very low” risk of HIV transmission within mixed-HIV-status gay male couples in which the HIV-positive member has a fully suppressed viral load. The study had more data on heterosexual couples than on gay couples, allowing the investigators to determine that the comparable risk for this population is “extremely low.” An extension of PARTNER including only gay couples is currently running so that the researchers can gather more data to refine their risk estimate for this demographic.
Given all this data, Anthony S. Fauci, MD, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID), characterized the risk of HIV transmission through condomless sex among men or women with an undetectable viral load as “vanishingly small” or “even negligible.”
Now, at GMJ we read the comments sections of gay websites, and we know what you write after a fact based article is published. We know about your fears and the nasty names you call guys with HIV on hook-up sites. But most of all, we notice your fear. Your fear is blocking you from taking in new information, processing it and making the best choices for your life. For example: Above, you read about how the risk of transmission was “very low” and “extremely low”. To many of you, that triggered your “fear sense”. What does extremely low mean? How low is it? No matter what, if it is not zero, it is too high! I’ll stick with my condoms that are less effective but make me feel better, the rare times that I use them, even as I shame others on the Internet.
Based on the amount of data collected in this one study, the investigators were able to estimate that the annual risk of HIV transmission among gay couples in which only one partner has the virus and he has an undetectable viral load is between zero and 1.56 percent.
There is the zero you want. But, there is also the 1.56% that most of you will focus on. Life is not without risks, and no one at GMJ is telling you that you must have sex with someone who is HIV positive or how that sex must occur, with or without condoms. This information is for guys who are HIV positive, so that they will not feel “dirty” or that every sexual act has the potential to infect another. This article is for those that want to have real science to back up their decisions. It is for those that are ready to move past the AGE of AIDS, and join us in the AGE of HIV. Stigma around this disease needs to stop. It is literally killing our community as it stops many from getting tested and even creates and supports laws which criminalize HIV. We can do better, but it starts with education and ends with belief in science.