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Virally suppressed people have “effectively no risk” of transmitting HIV, says US CDC: but how many are suppressed?
Gus Cairns, 2017-10-03 21:30:00

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used 27 September, National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, to announce that HIV diagnoses had fallen in white gay and bisexual men and remained stable among African-American gay men between 2010 and 2014, its last complete year of figures.

The CDC went further in its release: for the first time, it attributed this slowing of diagnoses to “the prevention effectiveness of antiretroviral therapy (ART)” and said that data from three studies had convinced it that people who take ART as prescribed and maintain an undetectable viral load “have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting the virus to an HIV-negative partner”.

This form of words is important. It marks a break with the CDC’s previous formulation that viral suppression “greatly reduces the chance” of HIV transmission. The change in wording is being attributed both to data such as that from the recent Opposites Attract study, and to the lead given by the Prevention Access Campaign and its “U=U” (Undetectable equals Untransmittable) message.

Bruce Richman, founder of the Prevention Access Campaign, told "The CDC’s updated risk assessment is a historic shift in what it means to be a person living with HIV, and provides a powerful argument for universal access to treatment and care for both personal and public health reasons."