An effective antiretroviral treatment has proven to prevent the transmission of the aids virus in all-male couples – where one partner is HIV positive – who have unprotected sex, a study published on Thursday shows. The results, published with the benefit of “eight years’ hindsight”, confirms and reinforces the conclusions reached by researchers during the initial phase of their research, published in 2016.
The study concentrated on about 1,000 homosexual couples having unprotected sex – in whose relationship one of the partners was HIV positive – whose viral load is undetectable thanks to antiretrovirals.
During eight years’ monitoring, no case of HIV transmission was observed, the authors of the study published in British periodical The Lancet, emphasised.
Fifteen HIV negative participants contracted the aids virus, but genetic analysis of the virus revealed it was not the same type as their partners’ and consequently had not been transmitted within the couple.
The study was conducted on 75 clinical sites in 14 European countries between September 2010 and July 2017.
During the initial research phase, there was also no transmission observed after 1.3 years on averege spent following 900 heterosexual and homosexual couples. However, researchers remained cautious. They considered in particular that they could not completely rule out a danger of transmission, particularly for anal sex over a longer period.
This time, “our results offer conclusive proof to gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with antiretroviral therapy suppressing the viral charge is zero,” Alison Rodger, the University College London professor who edited the study, considered.
The principle, summed up by the motto “U = U” (for “undetectable equals untransmittable”), has been promoted for several years by organizations fighting against AIDS.
Among the limitations of their research, the authors nonetheless noted that most HIV positive participants had been taking antiretrovirals for several years and that they therefore had “limited data on the danger of transmission during the first months of antiretroviral therapy.”
Another less extensive study focussing on the same section of people (gay couples having unprotected sex, one partner is HIV positive with no trace of viral charge) published in 2018 in Lancet HIV, also reports zero cases of transmission.
The Brussels Times