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Understanding that undetectable equals untransmissible improves people's sex lives

People who understood it was impossible to pass on HIV with an undetectable viral load experienced intimacy and connection with their sexual partners

Understanding that undetectable equals untransmissible improves people's sex lives
Queer Gubbi Gubbi man, Davey Thompson stars in TIM's U=U awareness campaign. | Photo: Supplied

Convincing evidence that proves HIV positive people who have undetectable viral loads cannot transmit HIV has helped take the anxiety out of having sex not only for people living with HIV (PLHIV), but anyone at risk of acquiring the virus.

Word is slowly getting out that ‘undetectable equals untransmissible’ (U=U). That is, it’s impossible for PLHIV with undetectable viral loads (UVL)  to pass on HIV.

A PLHIV with an UVL means the levels of HIV in their body are extremely low or undetectable .

‘U=U gives me confidence I can keep myself and my partner safe,’ said Abby, a woman living with HIV.

‘The peace of mind that comes from knowing I can’t pass on HIV is something I want every woman living with HIV to be able to experience, and know they are not alone.’

But for one grassroots HIV organization, the message that U=U has not gone far enough.

So The Institute of Many (TIM) decided to launch a groundbreaking campaign to raise awareness about U=U.

‘Even though people living with HIV have known for years that we are not at risk of passing on HIV if we have an undetectable viral load, there is still so much stigma and fear attached to HIV,’ said TIM co – founder Nic Holas.

Real voices

Entitled U=U, the campaign will feature voices and stories from both HIV positive and negative people.

‘I have a lot of conversations on line with guys about U =U, and there’ s still a lot of work to do to educate our communities,’ said Darby, a HIV negative man.

‘I wanted to be part of this campaign to help more people understand that undetectable equals untransmissible.’

U=U campaign posters

Some of the posters in U=U. | Photo: Supplied

Holas said it was not enough for PLHIV to be confident that they’re protecting their partners. But also that partners and potential partners need to understand that UVL means there is absolutely no risk to them.

‘A lot of the stigma faced by people living with HIV plays out on dating and hook-up apps, so something people can instantly recognise, like U=U , will help brea k down misconceptions about HIV.’

The campaign features stories about people’s lives opened up to intimacy and connection after gaining a better understanding of U=U.

‘For me, great sex is free from worry — it’s abandonment,’ said HIV negative man, Mark.

‘U=U levels the playing field for HIV – negative people and people living with HIV, and understanding each other means great r connection and intimacy. ‘

The campaign will feature a website, posters and videos to help raise understanding of U=U.


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