NO MORE EXCUSES. U=U IN ASIA PACIFIC
[ UNDERSTAND. COMMUNICATE. INTEGRATE ]
APCOM’s Initiative on ‘Undetectable=Untransmittable’ in Asia-Pacific
The landmark research finding about people living with HIV (PLHIV) with undetectable viral load (virally suppressed) CANNOT pass on the virus through sexual transmission was based on HPTN, PARTNERS and PARTNERS2 Studies. Hence, the “Undetectable=Unstramittable (U=U)”. The PARTNERS2 Study, which is a ‘real-life’ study, showed that among the 77,000 condomless sexual acts among gay men and other men who have sex with men, there were ZERO transmission linked to their HIV positive partner. There is zero evidence that HIV transmission is actually possible with a suppressed viral load. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) presented 100% effectiveness of Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) for people living with HIV to prevent sexual transmission. This also highlights that the ‘optimal use’ of ART (taking ART daily as prescribed and achieving and maintaining viral suppression) is an effective prevention strategy to reduce the risk of acquiring or transmitting HIV. This is achieved if people diagnosed positive for HIV is put into treatment as early as possible.
The advocacy movements and campaigns around ‘U=U’ started in early 2016 by a group of people living with HIV who created a groundbreaking Consensus Statement with global experts to clear up confusion about the science supporting “Undetectable=Unstramittable (U=U)”. It is vital for bringing the science to not only the general public and health practitioners, but also to people living with HIV who may not have been informed about U=U, especially those who are already marginalized by healthcare systems. However, in some countries in Asia-Pacific with more conservative societies, high levels of stigma and discrimination pose a significant barrier to treatment initiation for people living with HIV, even when ART treatment is provided free of charge. However, examples of good practice demonstrated that early government endorsement through policy and action are key drivers to the success of U=U campaigns.