‘Zero’ Risk of Transmission from HIV Patients with Undetectable Viral Loads

Mar 9, 2014
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'Zero' Risk of Transmission from HIV Patients with Undetectable Viral Loads

People with HIV who have an undetectable viral load as a result of antiretroviral therapy (ART) have a practically “zero” chance of transmitting the virus sexually, a European study has found.

In a finding that could dramatically change the lives of HIV-positive people and public health policies the world over, a study of 282 gay men on treatment with undetectable levels of the virus in their blood, found that none of them transmitted it to their partners through unprotected sex over one year.

While the final results of the study are due to be released in 2017, interim results from the first two years of the study show that no cases of HIV were transmitted either by anal or vaginal sex where the HIV-positive partner had an undetectable viral load (under 200 copies/ml).

The European researchers made the announcement last week at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston, Massachusetts.

These findings throw a monkey wrench into the pseudo-scientific ramblings of adult business gossip-mongers such as Mike South and Rob Black, who have claimed without a shred of evidence that adult performer PCR testing is useless because an individual on antiretroviral drugs with an undetectable viral load could enter the performer pool and still infect other performers.

The research comes from the first two years of the PARTNER study which involves 1110 serodiscordant couples, where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is negative.

While the couples participating in the PARTNER study are a mix of both gay and straight, all the HIV-positive partners are on ART, a medicinal therapy which reduces traces of the HIV virus in the body to undetectable levels.

Statistical analysis shows that the maximum likely chance of transmission via anal sex from someone on successful HIV treatment was 1% a year for any anal sex and 4% for anal sex with ejaculation where the HIV-negative partner was receptive; but the researchers say the true likelihood is probably much nearer to zero than this.

The PARTNER study also boosted hopes that a strategy of ”treatment as prevention” could play a major role in stemming the spread of HIV.

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Anthony Kennerson
9 years ago

Nick East was running the same kind of “B-b-b-b-b-b-but…retrovirals can mask HIV and beat RNA testing!!!! CONDOMS RULEZ!!!!111ONEHUNDEREDELEVEN111!!!!” nonsense; I suppose he can join South and Black crying in their spilled beer, too.

Ernest Greene
Ernest Greene
9 years ago

I’m of the wait-and-see persuasion on this one. It may well be true, but for a myriad of reasons might not be relevant to the situation in porn, which presumes multiple contacts on a regular basis. We’ve known for a long time that low viral loads substantially reduce the risk of HIV transmission, but it would be a dangerous mistake to assume that such a risk is non-existent or to use it as an excuse for allowing HIV+ players into the porn community. Do we entirely trust performers to maintain their medication regimen? If not, do we care to add… Read more »

Deep Throat
Deep Throat
9 years ago
Reply to  Ernest Greene

I absolutely agree, however this study provides a little context for the claims by those who denigrate adult performer testing protocols.


[…] study (“The PARTNER study“) suggests that it’s nearly impossible for people with undetectable viral loads to infect others with HIV through …. The study followed nearly 900 couples who were serodiscordant (one partner was HIV positive and […]

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