A new study which followed nearly 1,000 gay male couples in The Lancet has found that due to treatment reducing the AIDS virus to very low levels there were no cases of HIV transmission in that subject group for over eight years.
The European study followed 972 gay male couples – where one was living with HIV and taking antiretroviral therapy (ART) and the other was HIV negative –
Antiretroviral therapy is combination of drugs, to be taken daily, to stop HIV replicating in the body.
It can’t cure HIV, but it can reduce the amount of virus to undetectable levels in the blood..
In total, the couples in the study reported having anal sex without condoms a total of 76,088 times.
“Our findings provide conclusive evidence that the risk of HIV transmission through anal sex when HIV viral load is suppressed is effectively zero,” the researchers said.
Prof Alison Rodger, study author and professor of infectious diseases at University College London, said anal sex was known to have the highest risk of transmission, but gay men should now be reassured.
“This powerful message can help end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission, and tackling the stigma and discrimination that many people with HIV face.”
In the study, the men with HIV had been taking antiretroviral therapy for an average of four years before it began, making the virus undetectable – defined as fewer than 200 copies per ml of blood.
Most people reach this level after taking daily HIV treatment for six months.
Dr Michael Brady, medical director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said: “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.
“This has incredible impact on the lives of people living with HIV and is a powerful message to address HIV-related stigma.