You are here

U=U not getting through

A recent study confirms that fear of HIV continues to trump scientific knowledge of the virus. As Michael Rodriguez reports, such prejudice wreaks havoc on the lives of people living with HIV.

According to a recent US study, a disturbingly high amount of HIV-negative gay men doubt the veracity of the statement undetectable = untransmittable”. If you haven’t heard that motto before, it’s pretty simple: people living with HIV who are on medication and whose viral loads have reached undetectable status cannot transmit the virus to their sexual partners.

The 2018 study on U=U ended up recruiting 12,222 eligible gay and bisexual men to share how they really felt about the slogan, which is gaining consensus among the medical and scientific communities, though that consensus has not extended to the general population. The men recruited were asked to give four possible answers on how accurate they believe the slogan to be: completely accurate, somewhat accurate, somewhat inaccurate and completely inaccurate.

Only one-third of HIV-negative men and men who didn’t know their status believed the statement to be either completely or somewhat accurate, compared to 70 percent of HIV-positive men. Among HIV-negative men, those who were on PrEP, those who tested for HIV every six months, and those who engaged in condomless anal sex with HIV-positive men, were more likely to believe that “U=U”.

As an HIV-negative man, I understand the myriad reasons for not yet believing that undetectable = untransmittable. It’s not actually about learning something new, but unlearning lifelong messages that just being gay, and loving other men, would most likely lead to acquiring HIV.

This fear continues to wreak havoc on the lives of people living with HIV. While advances in medicine have made life with HIV easier in many ways, stigma and fear around the virus have failed to progress at the same rate. Aside from individual interactions with HIV-positive people, the amount of fear in the world continues to make it easy for politicians and people in the criminal justice system to punish those living with HIV just for living.

Though it’s easy to see the root of this long-held stigma, that doesn’t excuse its survival. In the era of U=U, believing that HIV-positive people with an undetectable viral load can pass the virus on is akin to denying climate change. The scientific consensus is there.

UPDATE: The study took place prior to the CDC endorsing the U=U message. Since then, now half of HIV-negative people surveyed believe in the science behind U=U.

latest news

September 7, 2018
Despite big hopes for AZT, the drug's dibilitating side effects proved too much for some. 
September 3, 2018
Indonesia's anti-LGBT agenda is having a devastating impact on the country’s HIV response.
August 3, 2018
The key takeaway from the AIDS 2018 U=U pre-conference was clear: spread the message far and wide.
July 26, 2018
AIDS 2018: World-leading scientists refute rationale for laws that criminalise HIV transmission.
July 19, 2018
NAPWHA would like to hear from you about your experience using the MyLife+ app.
July 17, 2018
The Opposites Attract study continues to contribute to evidence demonstrating that U=U.
July 13, 2018
My Health Record is a centralised digital database housing an individual’s health information.
July 10, 2018
Although people with HIV are living longer, age-related diseases are setting in earlier, says report. 
July 5, 2018
A recent study confirms that fear of HIV continues to trump scientific knowledge of the virus.
June 22, 2018
Two years since its launch, MyLife+ is now recognised as the go-to app for people with HIV in Australia.
May 9, 2018
The federal government's budget details were released last night. Here's a community response.
March 29, 2018
We’re not talking about recovery parties here, but the post-recovery recovery when the festivities have ended.
March 21, 2018
The world has lost one of the most respected scientists in the field of HIV/AIDS, Professor David Cooper.
March 21, 2018
The cost of PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is to be drastically reduced from 1 April
March 9, 2018
The job of the kidneys isn’t glamorous but they play a crucial role in helping us maintain good health.