Rumours of the demise of HIV have been greatly exaggerated

Published: November 25, 2014

Paul Flowers
Original Article:

Two years ago, the “beginning of the end” of AIDS was announced. It included the promise of reducing HIV transmission by reducing the amount of infectious virus in the population. This relies on a two-pronged approach: giving the same preventative drugs to both positive and at-risk people and regularly testing those at most risk.

The logic around the drugs part of this strategy goes like this. It is becoming clear that transmission is very unlikely to happen during unprotected sex between someone who is HIV negative and someone who is positive but whose virus is controlled (an undetectable viral load, as it is described by medics). So controlling the virus in the HIV positive person is known as the treatment-as-prevention approach.

Equally, for someone who is HIV negative it seems that taking a single pill of HIV treatment every day radically reduces the chances of HIV transmission to around the same levels as using condoms (this is known as taking a pre-exposure prophylaxis). Put these two approaches together and you could question whether, from the perspective of HIV prevention alone, there is any point in continuing to use condoms.

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