The CDC announcement cited three studies involving thousands of couples and many thousands of acts of sex without a condom or pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), in which there were no cases of HIV transmission from an HIV-positive partner who was virally suppressed to an HIV-negative partner. CDC stated that this means people who take antiretroviral therapy (ART) as prescribed and achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV.
As the announcement was released on National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, CDC also included some information on how gay and bisexual men (and other men who have sex with men) are disproportionately affected by HIV. In 2015, more than 26,000 gay and bisexual men received an HIV diagnosis, representing two-thirds of all new diagnosis in the United States. Additionally, among gay and bisexual men living with HIV in 2015, only 61% had achieved viral suppression. This means only 61% had effectively no risk of transmitting HIV.
CDC encourages both public and private stakeholders to implement interventions to increase retention in HIV treatment and viral suppression, which would reduce the risk of transmitting HIV to effectively zero. These interventions must focus on disproportionately affected communities, especially gay and bisexual men of color, transgender individuals, and Black women. More must be done in order to reduce racial and ethnic disparities in HIV care outcomes.
This blog post was co-authored by Natalie Dobek, a second-year law student at Georgetown Law and a research assistant at the O’Neill Institute.
The views reflected in this expert column are those of the individual authors and do not necessarily represent those of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law or Georgetown University. This blog is solely informational in nature, and not intended as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed and retained attorney in your state or country.