After eight years and 783 couples having sex without a condom 77,000 times, not a single HIV transmission took place from a HIV-positive person on effective treatment.
The results from the PARTNER 2 study were revealed at AIDS 2018 conference in Amsterdam earlier today, reaffirming what’s long been known: people with an undetectable viral load cannot pass it on.
The study also shows that antiretroviral treatment is as effective for gay men as it is heterosexual couples when it comes to preventing HIV transmission.
The original PARTNER study began in 2010, but a second phase began in 2014 until 2018 that focussed on enrolling gay men.
PARTNER 2 included 972 gay couples where one partner was HIV positive and on effective antiretroviral treatment, while the other is HIV negative.
It was made up of participants from 14 different countries, with 635 couples enrolled as part of PARTNER 2, while 337 continued from the PARTNER 1 study.
Participants were asked to fill out confidential surveys on their sex lives, and all of those involved were already having sex without the use of a condom before enrolling.
Where the HIV positive partner was on effective medication and had a viral load under 200 copies/mL, there wasn’t a single case of HIV transmission when they had condomless sex with their HIV negative partner.
The data came from 77,000 acts of sex without the use of a condom.
However, when put together with another study, Opposites Attract, that number rises to 126,000 acts of condomless anal sex without a single HIV transmission.
“We’re thrilled that the PARTNER2 results are out, and confirm what we already knew: that people living with HIV on effective treatment cannot pass the virus on to their sexual partners,” said Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at the Terrence Higgins Trust.
“The two studies (PARTNER1 and PARTNER2) scientifically prove this, and will be so powerful in helping to fight the stigma and myths that still surround HIV.
“What’s most important now is ensuring that we continue to share this message and educate people as far and wide as possible, to help improve the lives of people living with HIV across the world.”
Ian Howley, Chief Executive of HERO – Health Equality and Rights Organisation – added: “What the PARTNER 2 study does is prove once again that people who are on effective and successful treatment cannot pass on HIV to their partners.
“This should be reassuring to every gay and bisexual man who is HIV-undetectable that you are not a danger to anyone and no person should use your status as a way to reject you.
“However, the results of the PARTNER 2 study will not wipe away the stigma those living with HIV receive overnight. We have to continue to push the message and help educate those who still don’t believe the science behind the U=U movement.”