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No HIV transmission in over 70,000 cases of gay sex with HIV-positive partner

Ella Braidwood July 24, 2018
Bottles of antiretroviral drug Truvada are displayed at Jack's Pharmacy on November 23, 2010 in San Anselmo, California.

Antiretroviral drugs like Truvada can prevent the spread of HIV (Justin Sullivan/Getty)

Groundbreaking new research has revealed that gay or bisexual men on effective HIV treatment pose no risk of passing on the virus through condomless sex.

The results of “PARTNER 2” study showed that there were no cases of HIV being passed on in 76,000 cases of gay sex, where the HIV-positive person had an undetectable viral load as the result of having treatment.

The research – revealed on Tuesday (July 24) at the International AIDS Conference in Amsterdam – builds on the previous ‘PARTNER 1’ study in 2014, which indicated that people with an undetectable viral load cannot pass on HIV.

This 2014 research included men who have sex with men, but researchers said the PARTNER 2 was carried out “to ensure that this finding was at least as certain for gay men as it was for heterosexuals.”

However, the PARTNER 2 study confirms a campaign widely backed by HIV/AIDS groups that “Undetectable = Untransmittable” (U=U) for men having gay sex.

This 14-country study found that there where no instances in which HIV was passed on between same-sex male couples, where the HIV-positive partner had a viral load under 200.

Researchers found that the risk of an HIV-positive person with an undetectable viral load passing on HIV is “scientifically equivalent to zero.”

The results also build on another study published earlier this month – called “Opposites Attract” – that concluded there were no cases of HIV transmission when the HIV-positive partner was on effective treatment in more than 12,000 acts of condomless anal sex.

When combined, both PARTNER studies and the Opposites Attract research mean that effective HIV treatment has ensured there are no cases of the virus being transmitted in about 126,000 acts of gay sex.

An HIV test. (Creative Commons)

Commenting on the results of the PARTNER 2 study, Michael Brady, medical director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “We’re thrilled that the PARTNER2 results are out, and confirm what we already knew: that people living with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners.

“The two studies (PARTNER1 and PARTNER2) scientifically prove this, and will be so powerful in helping to fight the stigma and myths that still surround HIV.

“What’s most important now is ensuring that we continue to share this message and educate people as far and wide as possible, to help improve the lives of people living with HIV across the world.”

In 2008, Dr Pietro Vernazza spearheaded the scientific view that viral suppression means HIV cannot be passed on in a statement to the Bulletin of Swiss Medicine.

More: AIDS, Aidsmap, Europe, HIV, NAM, PARTNER 1, PARTNER 2, The Netherlands

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