'Zero' risk of HIV transmission in gay men receiving treatment, study says

No HIV transmissions found among nearly 1,000 LGBTI male couples on antiretroviral treatment

No HIV transmissions found among nearly 1,000 LGBTI male couples on antiretroviral treatment

The study proves, the researchers said, that using antiretroviral therapy (ART) to suppress HIV to undetectable levels also means it can not be passed on via sex.

FILE PHOTO - A digitally colorized scanning electron microscopic (SEM) image depicts a single, red colored H9-T cell that had been infected by numerous, spheroid shaped, mustard colored human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) particles attached to the cell's surface membrane, as seen in this 2012 image obtained from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) located in Bethesda, Maryland, U.S., on March 5, 2019.

The theory is far from new, and this isn't the first study to show that HIV can be suppressed enough so that those who are infected can't pass the virus along to others.

The potential breakthrough could mean an end to the spread of infections, according to an expert who co-authored the paper published in the medical journal, the Lancet, on May 2.

The findings build on an earlier phase of the study which specifically looked at the HIV transmission risk for serodifferent heterosexual couples. Known as the "U=U Campaign", it stands for "undetectable equals untransmittable". Researchers estimated that the ART had prevented 472 HIV transmissions.

"Whether men who are in monogamous relationships in these circumstances chose to use or not to use condoms is up to them, but there is no need to do so to prevent HIV transmission to the negative partner", said the new study's lead author, Dr. Alison Rodger.

More than 21 million people now receive regular ART medication, which suppresses the virus - only around 59 percent of global HIV sufferers. Of those cases, more than 35 million died from AIDS-related illnesses. Nearly 40 million people around the world were HIV-positive in 2017. HIV screenings and behavior surveys were conducted throughout the study, along with genetic testing to definitively link any newly identified HIV infection to its source.

Nearly half of new HIV diagnoses are late, which is proving a major obstacle in providing those infected with treatment, the Guardian reported.

The study proves, the researchers said, that using antiretroviral therapy to suppress the AIDS virus to undetectable levels also means it can not be passed on via sex, the researchers said.

"We think that the findings from this study could be incredibly powerful in breaking down some of the barriers to testing in communities where there is still a lot of stigma around HIV".

While the number of AIDS deaths is falling, the number of new infections worldwide remains stubbornly high at 1.8 million new cases each year.

"The results ... provide yet one more catalyst for a universal test-and-treat strategy to provide the full benefits of antiretroviral drugs".

Health experts have a bullish plan to end the spread of HIV in the USA by 2030.