Three simple words that can change a lot.

Have you heard of the term UEqualsU, here’s what it means and why it’s important.

UEqualsU is a campaign which highlights that when people, living with HIV have an undetectable load, they are unable to pass on HIV to their sexual partners.

Read more about the campaign from one of our own columnists.

It stands for Undetectable Equals Untransmittable.

what does UEqualsU mean?

An undetectable viral load can be achieved when a person diagnosed with HIV is following medical advice and taking prescribed medications from their doctors and managing their illness suitably – mainly through the use of medication, such as antiretroviral therapy (ART).

In May 2019, a European study of nearly 1,000 gay male couples who had sex without using condoms – where one partner was HIV positive and on suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART) and the other HIV negative – reported no cases of within-couple HIV transmission over 8 years.

The results support the international U=U or UEqualsU (undetectable equals untransmittable) campaign, that has been endorsed by more than 780 HIV organisations in 96 countries, to raise awareness of how scientific evidence shows that effective ART means people living with HIV can have sex without fear of transmitting the HIV virus to others.

In another study, also in 2017, 343 gay couples, where one partner had HIV and the other did not, has not found a single case of HIV transmission despite 16,889 acts of condomless anal sex. The Opposites Attract study looked at whether HIV is transmitted between gay male couples of different HIV status when the HIV-positive partner is on treatment that fully suppresses their HIV. The HIV-positive partners in Opposites Attract had a so-called ‘undetectable viral load’ 98% of the time.

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Professor Andrew Grulich of the Kirby Institute and chief investigator on the study summed up the findings,

“Our data add to previous studies which show that there has never been a recorded case of HIV transmission from an HIV-positive person to their HIV-negative sexual partner when the HIV-positive partner had undetectable viral load.”

NAM’s Executive Director, Matthew Hodson, commented,

“In terms of HIV prevention, if condom use is safer sex, then sex with someone who has maintained an undetectable viral load is even safer sex.”

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Check out more definitions in our Big Gay Glossary