People living with HIV who are on anti-retroviral treatment and maintain an undetectable viral load (UVL) for at least six months do not sexually transmit HIV.
An undetectable viral load is when the amount of HIV in a person’s blood (viral load) is no longer able to be detected by a standard viral load test for HIV.
If a person living with HIV has been taking medication consistently, and has been able able to obtain and sustain an undetectable viral load (UVL) for six months, there is no chance they will pass HIV on to someone else if they have sex without a condom. This is what U=U (Undetectable = Untransmittable) means.
Once someone’s viral load reaches ‘undetectable’ it does not mean it will stay that way for ever. A person’s viral load can go up and down depending on individual circumstances.
Some people living with HIV may never be able to obtain an undetectable viral load, so it’s important not to assume that they can.
No. Viral load can go up and down, small blips are not uncommon even if you are taking your medication as prescribed. Regular monitoring of your HIV viral load is an important part of your treatment regimen.
Definitely not. Remaining on treatment is key to keeping your viral load under control and stopping the HIV virus from replicating. If you stop taking your medication even for a week or two, you give HIV the opportunity to replicate more quickly, increasing your viral load and the risk of developing resistance to your treatment.
By far the majority of people need HIV medication to get their viral load down and keep it there. A very small percentage of people living HIV have successfully managed their viral load without medication. This group, referred to as ‘elite controllers’, are estimated to make up less than half of 1% of all people living with HIV.
Everyone responds uniquely to treatment. If you have been on treatment for 6 months or more, and you are taking your medication as prescribed, you have a good chance of significantly reducing your viral load. However, the exact amount of time it takes to get to undetectable will be different for everyone. Not everyone will be able to obtain an undetectable viral load.
Getting to undetectable might not be possible for everyone who is diagnosed with HIV, even if they take their medication as prescribed. It is important that people living with HIV are not pressured or expected to have an undetectable viral load.