HIV breakthrough as treatment eliminates transmission risk | UK News
People who are HIV positive and taking medication do not spread the virus when they have sex, a study has found.
It means an end to the HIV pandemic could be in sight.
Scientists studied 1,000 gay male couples – one HIV positive and taking antiretroviral drugs to suppress the virus, and the other HIV negative.
Over the course of eight years, the virus was not transmitted once.
Professor Alison Rodger from University College London, who co-led the research, said the study provided “conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART (antiretroviral therapy) is zero”.
She added that “this powerful message can help end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission”.
Dr Michael Brady, from HIV charity the Terrence Higgins Trust, said the findings would have an “incredible impact on the lives of people living with HIV”.
Researchers said the couples had sex without condoms about 77,000 times, estimating that had medication not been taken, there would have been about 472 transmissions of HIV.
During the eight years, 15 men did become infected with HIV, but it did not come from their main partner.
“We used cutting-edge technology to analyse the genetic strains of the virus in the rare cases where a new HIV infection occurred,” said Professor Anna Maria Geretti from the University of Liverpool’s Institute of Infection and Global Health.
She added: “Our work was key because we were able to show that there was no relation between the virus strains of the two people in the couple.
“In other words, in all cases of new HIV infections, the new virus was so different from that of the HIV-positive partner that it must have come from somebody else.”
ART proved just as effective for gay couples as it did for heterosexual couples.
Dr Brady said it was “impossible to overstate the importance of these findings”, adding: “The study has given us the confidence to say, without doubt, that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners.”
The study is published in The Lancet medical journal.