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Another Government Agency Confirms Undetectable Equals Untransmittable

The National Institutes of Health joins the CDC in recognizing the latest research on HIV transmission.

Another government agency in the United States has finally confirmed that undetectable equals untransmittable.

Late last week, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published a press release about a recent study from its National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) team:

In recent years, an overwhelming body of clinical evidence has firmly established the HIV Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U) concept as scientifically sound, say officials from the National Institutes of Health. U=U means that people living with HIV who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load—the amount of HIV in the blood—by taking and adhering to antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed cannot sexually transmit the virus to others.

NIAID scientists reviewed the aforementioned U=U literature, confirming something HIV/AIDS advocates and people living with HIV have known for years: people with an undetectable viral load can't actually transmit HIV. Their findings were published in a recent edition of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

NIH's publication comes more than a year after the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) first validated the research that undetectable equals untransmittable. In a memo published in September 2017, the CDC confirmed that "when [antiretroviral treatment] results in viral suppression, defined as less than 200 copies/ml or undetectable levels, it prevents sexual HIV transmission."

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

SAN ANSELMO, CA - NOVEMBER 23: Bottles of antiretroviral drug Truvada are displayed at Jack's Pharmacy on November 23, 2010 in San Anselmo, California. A study published by the New England Journal of Medicine showed that men who took the daily antiretroviral pill Truvada significantly reduced their risk of contracting HIV. (Photo Illustration by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

The agency also noted in the same memo that nearly half of all people living with HIV in the U.S. have undetectable viral loads.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has repeatedly chipped away at ongoing HIV/AIDS research campaigns in the U.S. Most recently, conservatives quietly put a stop to essential NIH research involving human fetal tissue that was actually closing in on a cure for HIV. Medical experts and HIV-positive activists fear this derailment could end up prolonging the search for a cure—and hurting those most at risk of contracting HIV.

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