This World AIDS Day is an opportunity to remind the wider community of what it means to be living with HIV in 2017 and how — with new technologies available — we can all contribute to ending the epidemic in Australia.
Recent statements from leading international HIV researchers are definitive: if people with HIV are on effective antiviral medication, and maintain an undetectable viral load, they have virtually no risk of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner. In other words: undetectable equals untransmittable (U=U).
More than 500 HIV organisations in 67 countries have endorsed U=U and it is now a core component of HIV-prevention campaigns in Australia – and around the world.
"To see the findings of study after study — including the Australian-led Opposites Attract trial — validate the U=U message is as reassuring as you can get scientifically," said Cipri Martinez, President of the National Association of People with HIV Australia.
“The universal endorsement of U=U has had a remarkable effect on the lives of people with HIV. To know that you are no longer infectious to a sexual partner is liberating, especially after so many years of stigma from others in the community.”
In another exciting development, people at risk of HIV now have a chance to take a pill to protect themselves against the virus . PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is currently being trialled in a number of Australian states after studies showed impressive reductions in new transmissions.
The HIV community is eagerly awaiting the announcement by the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee as to whether it will approve funding for PrEP in Australia. If PrEP is approved, NAPWHA is hopeful that all people at risk of HIV will be able to access it.
"It's heartening that we have a relatively good news story to tell this World AIDS Day,” said Martinez. “Through U=U, PrEP and other measures, we now have the tools available to end HIV. However, we must ensure that the benefits are received equitably by everyone living with, or at risk of, HIV in Australia. We need to remain vigilant that no one is left behind."
Cipri Martinez President (WA time zone) — 0421 482 584
Robert Mitchell Vice-President — 03 6239 6797