Study of 1,000 Couples Shows HIV Drug Treatment Stops Virus Transmission

Preventing new HIV cases is the way to finally end the worldwide AIDS epidemic.

May 19, 2019

(Fahroni /

New HIV research has come up with better antivirals and has made HIV infection something that people can live longer lives with; something that was virtually unthinkable in the 1980s when the Human Immunodeficiency Virus first came to the world's attention. Now, the news is even more exciting.

Researchers may have found a way to stop HIV transmission in its tracks completely, and an end to the global Aids epidemic is becoming a fantastic reality.

The PARTNER 2 study was conducted by researchers from the University College London (UCL), and the University of Copenhagen monitored the health of 1,000 sexually active gay couples from across Europe for eight years.

Each couple consisted of one HIV-negative person and one HIV-positive person who was taking antiretroviral medication (ART) and had very low or undetectable amounts (less than 200 count) of the virus in their bloodstream. According to a UCL news release, there were absolutely no cases of infection among the test couples.

The test showed that antiretroviral treatment is just as effective in gay couples as heterosexual couples (this was proved in an earlier phase of the study). This is really important because gay men have a higher risk of infection from their partners.

The researchers estimated that around 472 HIV transmissions were prevented in the test couples. This is really statistically important because UNAIDS estimates that in 2017, 36.9 million people were living with HIV globally.

“Our findings provide conclusive evidence for gay men that the risk of HIV transmission with suppressive ART is zero, said lead author Professor Alison Rodger, UCL Institute for Global Health and Royal Free London NHS Foundation Trust in the news release. “Our findings support the message of the international U=U campaign [Undetectable = Untransmittable], that a suppressed viral load makes HIV untransmittable.

“This message has been endorsed by more than 780 HIV organizations in 96 countries and can help end the HIV pandemic by preventing HIV transmission and tackling the stigma and discrimination that many people with HIV face.”

Rodger said that these remarkable results must be disseminated globally to ensure that all HIV-positive people have access to testing, effective treatment, and support so that they can maintain an undetectable viral load.

The numbers of new cases of HIV in South Africa, the country with the largest HIV epidemic in the world, is lower than expected.  All of this is due to effective treatments that can halt the transmission rates.

"It is impossible to overstate the importance of these findings," said Dr. Michael Brady, medical director at Terrence Higgins Trust in the news release. “The PARTNER 2  study has given us the confidence to say, without doubt, that people living with HIV who are on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners."

The final results of the PARTNER 2 study that provided scientific evidence for how effective HIV treatment prevents sexual transmission of the virus were presented at the AIDS2018 conference in Amsterdam in July 2018, and the study was published in The Lancet journal in May 2019.

Bruce Richman, founding executive director of Prevention Access Campaign, credits the ground-breaking and hopefully final study for forever changing what it means to live and love with HIV.

This game-changing study means that with effective worldwide access to antiretroviral medications, ending the AIDS epidemic is a real possibility, and people who are already infected can live much longer and better lives.

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Bonnie Riva Ras has dedicated her life to promoting social justice. She loves to write about empowering women, helping children, educational innovations, and advocating for the environment & sustainability.