It’s time to take a pause and applause, because according to a landmark new study, the risk of transmitting the HIV virus is now almost non-existent when it is suppressed by an anti-retroviral treatment (ART). This might be just be the signal we’ve all been waiting for. This may be the end of the disease that claimed lives of over 35 million people throughout the world.
The study that took almost eight years to complete saw participation of nearly 1000 male couples of mixed HIV status from 14 European countries. Each couple had one partner that was HIV negative and the other one positive but going through a successful ART regime.
In the duration of the study, which was given the name, PARTNER2, the couples were asked to have unprotected sex. Since there was a virus- suppressant treatment into play, no cases of transmission were noted.
However, further investigation revealed that fifteen men were infected during the course of the study, but further prodding revealed this infection had been a result of sexual relationship other than their own partner.
Co-lead of the research and professor at the University College London, Alison Rodger said that if the infected people get the right kind of treatment, the virus can be eradicated.
"We've got a way to go to get people easier access to testing and treatment, but if we could get global coverage, then we could really make headway in eliminating the virus," she said.
A similar study, PARTNER1 focused on heterosexual couples. The results, which were published in 2016, also showed no risk of transmission.
"It's brilliant - fantastic. This very much puts this issue to bed," Rodger said. She further added, "conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART is zero. Our findings support the message of the international U=U (Undetectable=Untransmittable) campaign that an undetectable viral load makes HIV untransmittable."
According to the study's authors, "the results from the PARTNER studies support wider dissemination of the message of the U=U campaign that risk of transmission of HIV in the context of virally suppressive ART is zero.
"This dissemination is necessary to promote the benefits of early testing and treatment and to tackle stigma, discrimination, and criminalisation laws that continue to affect HIV-positive people."
This landmark study was led by the University College London and the University of Copenhagen and funded by the National Institute for Health Research, Europe's largest national clinical research funder.