Zero. That’s the latest finding from the PARTNER study: no linked HIV transmissions after poz/neg couples (both gay and straight) had condomless sex 58,000 times.
Released just ahead of next week’s International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, the results provide solid evidence that when an HIV-positive person (through antiretroviral treatment — ART) maintains a suppressed viral load, sexual transmission of HIV does not occur.
Between 2010 and 2014, 1,116 couples from 75 sites across Europe were enrolled to monitor the effectiveness of treatment as prevention against HIV. To be eligible, one partner had to be HIV-positive and on treatment, the other had to be HIV-negative; couples also had to be already having sex without condoms.
These new PARTNER results include more follow-up data (early results presented at AIDS 2014 were based on 45,000 instances of condomless sex). Unlike previous studies — which compared the risk of condomless sex while on ART to not being on ART — PARTNER was able to estimate the risks of individual sex acts. The risk for all types of sex, including condomless anal sex, was zero. (Whilst there were 11 seroconversions during the study period, none of the transmissions were linked to the positive partner.)
These latest PARTNER findings will reassure people living with HIV — and their negative sexual partners — that with treatment they can become non-infectious. In time, it is hoped that the fear around HIV will be reduced and that people living with HIV will be less stigmatised as a result.
Read the full study here.