- Ending the spread of HIV looks within reach as scientists reported that an anti-viral treatment reduces the risk of sexually-contracted HIV to "effectively zero."
- The PARTNER study monitored 782 gay couples taking medication and having regular unprotected anal sex between 2010 and 2017.
- One member of each couple had HIV, while the other partner did not.
- There were zero transmissions, which scientists said means the HIV virus was reduced to undetectable levels in the blood. "Undetectable equals untransmittable," the paper said.
- "Our findings provide conclusive evidence that the risk of HIV transmission through anal sex when HIV viral load is suppressed is effectively zero."
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Scientists registered a huge step forward toward stopping the spread of HIV after a study showed over 750 gay men on an anti-viral treatment did not transmit the virus to their partners.
The PARTNER study, published in The Lancet medical journal on Thursday, surveyed 782 gay couples across 14 European countries who were having regular unprotected anal sex between 2010 and 2017.
In each case one partner had HIV and was taking anti-retroviral pills, and one was free of the virus. None of the partners without HIV contracted it, despite 76,088 reports of unprotected intercourse.
The study's results show the drugs have lowered the virus to undetectable levels in the blood, which means HIV cannot be passed on via sexual intercourse.
"Our findings provide conclusive evidence that the risk of HIV transmission through anal sex when HIV viral load is suppressed is effectively zero," the paper stated.
"Among the 782 different gay couples followed for almost 1600 eligible couple-years of follow-up, which included more than 76,000 reports of condomless sex, we found zero cases of within-couple HIV transmission."
Medication taken by HIV suffers will not eliminate the virus but it will reduce it to undetectable levels, letting many with HIV live a long life.
In the early days after contracting HIV, prophylaxis medication can be taken and can often stop a person becoming infected.
Dr Michael Brady, medical director at HIV charity Terrence Higgins Trust told Business Insider: "The PARTNER 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."
"This has incredible impact on the lives of people living with HIV and is a powerful message to address HIV-related stigma."
More than 7 million people in South Africa have been diagnosed with HIV.
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