What Does the Community Have to Say about HIV Treatment, Viral Suppression, and Sexual Transmission?

Content From: Nathan Fecik MPH, Public Health Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: August 02, 20174 min read

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On June 30, 2017, the HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy (OHAIDP) hosted a community-led webinar “Community Response to the Effects of HIV Treatment and Viral Suppression on Transmission.” The webinar provided an opportunity to hear from a range of community voices who shared their perspectives on the growing body of evidence that HIV treatment that results in achieving and sustaining a suppressed viral load dramatically reduces the risk of sexually transmitting HIV. More than 620 lines – representing individuals, groups, and organizations from across the nation – participated in the webinar, highlighting the widespread interest in better understanding the research findings and their implications for truly transforming how we approach HIV prevention, care, and treatment.

During the two-hour webinar, representatives from national and community HIV organizations, local health departments, and people living with HIV presented on a number of topics. Some explained the existing body of data from several studies that have found no cases of HIV transmitted from a virally suppressed partner to an HIV-negative partner. So, they explained, viral suppression not only improves health outcomes for people living with HIV, it also greatly reduces the likelihood of passing HIV to others. Presenters cited HPTN052 and other recent large-scale trials that did not identify any linked HIV transmissions.

Other presenters provided examples of how they have translated that research into messaging for their communities, including the Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) campaign, and described how they’ve applied the findings in their programs and organizations. Some participants also offered inspiring, personal accounts of how the data impact them as people living with HIV. If you were unable to join us on the day of the webinar, I encourage you to take a moment to review the clips below to hear more about these topics from members of the community.

These community efforts demonstrate how vitally important it is that we communicate about and act upon these data in order to advance our response to HIV. The perspectives and comments raised on the webinar will also help inform our efforts at the federal level to understand and effectively communicate what the data say about the effect of HIV treatment resulting in viral suppression on the risk of sexual transmission and apply these findings to federally supported programs and services.

Our office, OHAIDP, is currently working with communications, policy, and research staff across HHS agencies that have HIV activities to review these and other related data to develop standard ways of describing, communicating, and disseminating the findings in an accurate, clear, and consistent manner. Hearing about how the community has responded to the data and their lessons and recommendations will help inform this process.

In the weeks ahead, HIV.gov will feature guest blog posts from some of the moderators and presenters who participated in the community webinar. Keep an eye out for those posts to learn more from community leaders as they elaborate on their experiences and share their thoughts on an issue that has the potential to greatly impact our approach to the domestic HIV epidemic. In the meantime, below are excerpts from the webinar in a YouTube playlist that you may wish to view.

Video Clips from the July 2017 webinar: Community Response to the Effects of HIV Treatment and Viral Suppression on Sexual Transmission

Welcome

  • Richard Wolitski, HHS Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy

Introduction (Moderators)

  • Dázon Dixon Diallo, SisterLove, Inc.
  • Paul Kawata, NMAC
  • Tiommi J Luckett, BLOC Project Coordinator, Positive Women's Network-USA/US People Living with HIV Caucus

What Does the Science Say About HIV Treatment, Viral Suppression, and Transmission?

  • Demetre Daskalakis, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Health Department Perspectives

  • Murray C. Penner, National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
  • Demetre Daskalakis, New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene

Personal Impact and Community Action

  • Bruce Richman, Prevention Access Campaign
  • Gina Brown, Southern AIDS Coalition
  • Naina Khanna, Positive Women's Network – USA
  • Noel Gordon, Human Rights Campaign (HRC)

Implementing Messages on HIV Treatment, Viral Suppression, and Transmission in the Community

  • Jesse Milan, AIDS United
  • Daniel D Driffin, THRIVE SS, Inc
  • Vaty Poitevien, Housing Works