“U=U” stands for UNDETECTABLE = UNTRANSMITTABLE
Being undetectable means that:
- You are taking antiretroviral therapy (HIV meds)
- You have an ‘undetectable HIV viral load’, so your HIV is fully suppressed or has been ‘asleep’ for more than six months
- You are having regular HIV viral load blood tests and haven’t missed any doses of medicines since your last blood test.
And if you’re undetectable, you cannot pass on HIV through sex, making it untransmittable.
How do we know this?
From a clinical trial called The Partner Study.
This study followed more than 1000 couples, where one partner was living with HIV and the other was HIV negative. The partner living with HIV was on antiretroviral therapy and their viral load had been suppressed for more than six months. The couples lived across Europe and included both gay and straight couples. The couples were in stable relationships and were already choosing to not use condoms.
Over several years the couples had sex, without using a condom, more than 58,000 times. There were ZERO transmissions of HIV from the partner living with HIV taking treatment, to their HIV negative partner.
That proved that if you live with HIV but take your medicines as instructed, you are not infectious and will not pass HIV on to your sexual partners, even if you don’t use a condom or if it splits or falls off.
This led to the knowledge behind the phrase U=U.
Do I still need to use a condom?
Yes! We advise all teenagers to use condoms because:
- They prevent unwanted pregnancies
- They stop you catching other sexually transmitted infections such as chlamydia and gonorrhoea
- Even if you are using condoms, you may want to use an additional method of contraception.
For further reading on U=U, download this publication from I-Base.