U=U

Did you know “U=U”, UNDETECTABLE = UNTRANSMITTABLE

This means that:

  • You are taking antiretroviral therapy (HIV meds)
  • You have an “undetectable HIV viral load” – that means your HIV is fully suppressed or “asleep” for more than 6 months
  • You are having regular HIV viral load blood tests and haven’t missed any doses of medicines since your last blood test.

How do we know this?

From a clinical trial called “The Partner Study”.

This study followed more than a thousand couples, where one of the partners was living with HIV and the other was HIV negative. The partner living with HIV was on antiretroviral therapy and their viral load was suppressed for more than 6 months. The couples lived all over Europe and included both gay and straight couples. The couples were in stable relationships and were already choosing not to use condoms.

Over several years the couples had sex, without using a condom, more than 58,000 times. There were ZERO transmissions of HIV from the partner living with HIV taking treatment, to their HIV negative partner. That proved that if you live with HIV but take your medicines really well you will are not infectious and will not pass HIV onto your sexual partners even if you don’t use a condom or it splits/falls off. This led to the phrase U=U.

Do I still need to use a condom?

Yes! We advise all teenagers to use condoms because:

  • They prevent unwanted pregnancies
  • They stop you catching other sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea
  • Even if you are using condoms you may want ot use an additional method of contraception.

In the Partner Study a few people who were the HIV negative partners at the beginning of the study did catch HIV but when the scientist looked at the HIV virus it wasn’t the same as their regular partners. (Scientist can look at tiny differences in the HIV virus to look at where it came from).  So to catch HIV these people were having unprotected sex with someone else. The person they caught the HIV from can’t have been on effective HIV treatment and may not even have known they were infected.

SO taking your antiretroviral therapy every day:

  • Keeps you healthy
  • Stops HIV passing to sexual partners
  • Stops pregnant women passing HIV to their babies


Thank you to Dr Caroline Foster for writing this information. 
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