Expanding Communication about the HIV-Prevention Benefit of Being Undetectable
Taking HIV treatment that leads to viral suppression (also known as “being undetectable”) dramatically improves the health of those living with HIV and prevents transmission to HIV-negative sexual partners. This is why helping many more people with HIV to achieve and maintain viral suppression is one of the four key pillars of the Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America initiative—and why ensuring that the health-protection and transmission-prevention benefits of viral suppression are more widely understood is crucial to reaching our nation’s goal of <3,000 new HIV infections per year by 2030.
The science is clear:
People living with HIV who take HIV medicine every day as prescribed and get and keep an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of sexually transmitting HIV to their HIV-negative partners.
This is also known as Undetectable = Untransmittable, or “U=U,” and is the foundation for the U=U community-led campaignExit Disclaimer.
But research shows that too few people know about this evidence, and many have a hard time believing it when they hear about it. As we move forward, HHS federal partner agencies, including CDC, HRSA, NIH, OASH, and SAMHSA, will continue to have the option of using a variety of channels and messages about the prevention benefits of being undetectable and U=U to share the science with healthcare providers, policy makers, people at risk for and living with HIV, and grantee and community stakeholders.
We will continue to assess and update messaging to ensure that it is easy to understand, consistent, scientifically accurate, believable, and motivational. We hope that you and all stakeholders will join us in helping to amplify this evidence. This includes using messaging from the U=U messaging campaignExit Disclaimer.
Communicating more widely about the benefits of being undetectable is a critical strategy for ensuring that we are able to reduce HIV-related stigma, improve health outcomes for people living with HIV, prevent new HIV infections, and end the HIV epidemic in America. We invite you to get creative and find ways to help us spread this important message.
In case you’re looking for some shareable resources on the benefits of being undetectable, here are some federal messages and tools that may be useful:
- NIAID’s Dr. Anthony Fauci says that the science is clear: Undetectable = Untransmittable
- “HIV Viral Load and Transmissibility of HIV Infection: Undetectable Equals UntransmittableExit Disclaimer,” a January 2019 commentary published in JAMA by NIAID’s Dr. Fauci, Dr. Carl Dieffenbach, and Dr. Robert Eisinger
- NIAID also offers additional information: HIV Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U), or Treatment as Prevention
- CDC’s HIV Treatment as Prevention page, including a technical fact sheet, Evidence of HIV Treatment and Viral Suppression in Preventing the Sexual Transmission of HIV [PDF, 160KB]
- HIV.gov’s Treatment as Prevention page
- HRSA’s October 2018 “Dear Colleague” letter to Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program providers encouraging them to incorporate messages in conversations with patients about the benefits of viral suppression and the effectiveness of viral suppression in preventing sexual transmission of HIV
- CDC’s “Dear Colleague” letter for the 2017 observance of National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day