An HIV-positive person taking anti-retroviral treatments (ART) to maintain an undetectable viral load has almost zero-chance of transmitting the virus to sexual partners, according to a study presented at the Conferences on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.
While an earlier study from 2011 determined that ART had a 96 percent success rate of stopping HIV transmission between heterosexual couples, that study didn’t include many gay men, meaning scientists didn’t necessarily know about HIV transmission when anal sex got thrown into the equation.
This more recent study, however, fixed that oversight: while the study included heterosexual couples, 40 percent of the over 1,100 participants were men who have sex with other men. Study participants engaged in condom-free sex, and of the 16,400 instances of gay sex in the study, not one transmitted HIV between partners. The few times an HIV-negative partner contracted HIV, genetic testing proved that the strain came from an outside sexual partner.
That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s impossible for a undetectable HIV-positive person to transmit HIV. In fact, AIDS.gov still recommends taking steps to avoid HIV transmission during any sexual intercourse. To cover their bases, the study’s researchers declared the maximum likelihood of transmission during anal sex with an undetectable partner to be (at most) a 1 percent chance. The study’s researches scientists also calculated a 95 percent trust level in the findings.
Most importantly, the study proves that ART is an effective method of fighting the HIV epidemic (something we’ve argued in the past).
Still, as your mom always said, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure – and we don’t have a cure for HIV/AIDS yet. But, if you’re undetectable, and you forget a condom one time, you probably don’t have to sweat it. And, of course, if your HIV-negative partner is taking PrEP, they should be fine.
(featured image via Men.com – NSFW)