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. 

People living with HIV who are on anti-retroviral treatment and maintain an undetectable viral load for at least six months do not sexually transmit HIV.

Research of gay and bisexual men who are living with HIV and have an undetectable viral load, and their HIV-negative partners in the Opposites Attract Study reported no cases of HIV transmission in almost 17,000 reported acts of anal intercourse without a condom.

These results support those of previous studies with similar findings and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) supports the notion that ‘Undetectable equals Untransmittable’ – also known as ‘U=U’.

The U=U message declares that because the HIV transmission risk is negligible (“so small or unimportant as to be not worth considering; insignificant”), PLHIV with a sustained undetectable viral load do not transmit HIV to their sexual partners.

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On top of this, top line results of the PARTNER trial showed zero HIV transmissions in 22,000 occasions of sex between gay male couples where the HIV infected partner had an undetectable viral load.

While having an undetectable viral load means there is no risk of transmitting HIV, it will not protect from acquisition or transmission of other STIs like syphilis or gonorrhoea. Because of this, it's a good idea to keep condoms in the mix with casual partners and to have a regular sexual health check-up.

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