New York State Wants You to Know: Undetectable Means Untransmittable

Written by | Lifestyle

Undetectable=Untransmittable campaign

The NY State Department of Heath wants locals and visitors to know the facts concerning HIV transmission. Today their message is that “Undetectable means Untransmittable.”

Their site at untransmittable.org makes clear there’s still no cure for HIV/AIDS. But, the campaign, “medicines to treat HIV can eliminate the risk of sexual transmission. In August 2016, the New York State Department of Health agreed with other public health and medical organizations that people with HIV who maintain an undetectable viral load for at least six months do not transmit HIV through sex. In September 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the New York State Department of Health agreed with this finding, which is known as “Undetectable = Untransmittable,” or “U = U”.

Metrosource hosted three spokesfolk from the NY state U=U effort — Kalvin Leveille, Kim Watson and Michelle Lopez — as part of our first-ever People We Love gala January 20. The trio gave remarks about the city’s efforts to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, not only in the gay community, but throughout the city and beyond.

The state’s U=U campaign focuses on sexual health and safe sex. In a complete, simple and direct way, their outreach explains how to protect yourself without surrendering to a life of celibacy.

Among the topics discussed in the program: PEP and PrEP — how effective HIV treatments and adherence to the medication’s schedule (one pill a day if you’re currently HIV-negative) can prevent infection from the virus well into the 90 percentile.

Also explained: terms like what “undetectable” actually means. For many, these are terms that entered the public conversation before they ever had a definitive explanation from medical authorities.

Most importantly, the effort drives home the point of its encouraging message — that “Undetectable = Untransmittable.”

Consider three recent studies: HPTN 052, PARTNER and Opposites Attract where researchers followed male couples and heterosexual couples where one partner was HIV-positive and the other HIV-negative. During these studies, not a single HIV-positive person who was taking antiretroviral medicines and was virally suppressed passed HIV to their negative partner. In the PARTNER and Opposites Attract studies, male couples had anal sex without condoms more than 34,000 times and heterosexual couples had vaginal or anal sex without condoms more than 36,000 times without a virally suppressed partner ever passing HIV to the negative partner. This is strong evidence that people do not sexually transmit HIV if they have an undetectable viral load.”

In trying to eradicate the disease, the campaign also addresses how someone who discovers they are positive can get their viral load under control to the point that they too can become undetectable.”

“If you have HIV,” the experts explain, “take antiretroviral medicines as prescribed by your health care provider. After you start your medicine, your provider will take blood samples to determine when the level of HIV virus in your blood has become undetectable. Once you have been undetectable for six months, you will not be able to sexually transmit HIV as long as you take your antiretroviral medicines and keep your viral load undetectable.”

A variety of programs are in place specifically to help New York patients start or stay in HIV care and take their medicines every day. These include the Undetectables, the Positive Life Workshop and, for those eligible for Ryan White services, the NYC Ryan White Care Coordination Programs.

The program also provides important advice in having safe sex and how newly infected individuals (almost the opposite of undetectables) can actually carry a very high viral load and are therefore the most infectious.

A person with HIV who has kept their viral load undetectable for six months, according to heath care professionals, will not pass HIV to their sexual partners, even if they have sex without condoms.

For more information, visit untransmittable.org and explore for yourself. Stay safe and healthy by staying smart.

Last modified: April 12, 2019

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