Undetectable HIV Viral Load

HIVRFSL

Almost everyone who knows that they are living with HIV in Sweden today – 95 percent – have non-infectious HIV. That happens when you get treatment that makes the viral load so low that it's undetectable. The virus then cannot be passed on to someone else. You are still living with HIV and need to keep taking your medication, but you are non-infectious and your health doesn't need to be affected much at all.

Cristian is living with non-infectious HIV.

What is non-infectious HIV?

Non-infectious HIV means that you are living with HIV but that your viral load is so low that it’s undetectable. This is the case for nearly everyone who is living with HIV and have received treatment for at least six months. Then the virus cannot be transmitted through sex, and you basically have non-infectious HIV.

If you are worried about contracting HIV it is actually safer to have sex with someone who knows that they have non-infectious HIV than with someone doesn’t know their HIV status. #säkrasteligget #smittfri

 

How long does it take for someone who is living with HIV to become non-infectious? 

How long you need to medicate in order to get the viral load down to undetectable levels varies. For some it takes a couple of months, and for others it can take longer. In order for the treatment to count as well functioning and to be able to say that you have non-infectious HIV, the viral load needs to have been very low for at least two measurings in a row, spaced between 3-6 months. It is important that the medication is taken in the correct way, and that there are no breaks in the medication. Almost everyone in Sweden becomes non-infectious.

Ola is living with non-infectious HIV.

 

What changes for people who live with non-infectious HIV? 

Everyone who knows that they are living with HIV are in contact with an HIV physician. When you count as non-infectious the physician can decide that you no longer need to disclose that you are HIV positive to your sexpartners as long as a condom is being used, since there is no risk of transmitting HIV to someone else.

For most people living with HIV it’s a relief to know that they cannot transmit HIV to someone else through sex. You can stop worrying about transmitting HIV to your partner, or partners, and relax and enjoy sex in a different way. Then there is no reason to be worried and abstain from sex just because you or your partner is living with HIV.

 

How do people get HIV when almost everyone who lives with HIV is non-infectious? 

Most people who contract HIV in Sweden today contract it from someone who doesn’t know that they have it. In the beginning of the infection your viral load is high, and it’s easy for the virus to transmit to sexpartners. That is why it’s important to get tested regularly. The more people that get tested and can receive quick treatment if they have HIV the better.  RFSL’s HIV testing.

 

Read more about non-infectious HIV 

Here are some links to sources and interesting reading about non-infectious HIV.

The public Health Agency of Sweden ”Hiv idag”, in Swedish

Research article about HIV in Sweden in the academic journal HIV Medicine, in English

The Public Health Agency of Sweden’s report – Smittsamhet vid behandlad hivinfektion, in Swedish

Research about HIV treatment as prevention (the HPTN 052 study), in English

Research about HIV treatment as prevention (the PARTNER study), in English

Fact sheet about contagiousness from AIDSMAP, in English