Data coming out of The Prevention Access Campaign confirms what many professionals and activists have thought for years, people living with HIV and maintain an undetectable viral load cannot transmit the HIV virus to their sexual partners. As they phrase it “Undetectable equals Untransmittable”, and yes we are aware that untransmittable is not a word. The reason behind the word choice is that noninfectious is a loaded word, or should I say that infectious is a stigmatizing word. There is a growing movement for language modernization in the
HIV community, often referred to as People First Language, or using words that are individual focused instead of focusing on the diagnosis. The S4 Initiative
(See Something, Say Something), also from The Prevention Access Campaign, is one such group dedicated to changing the narrative surrounding people living with HIV/AIDS.
The change in language for describing people living with HIV/AIDS began in the 1980’s. Looking back to The Denver Principals, it was quickly confirmed that victimizing those effected would be combated within the community. The Denver Principals were essentially a proclamation to the world on the rights of people living with HIV/AIDS. An excerpt from the proclamation reads:
“We condemn attempts to label us as ‘victims,’ a term that implies defeat, and we are only occasionally ‘patients,’ a term that implies passivity, helplessness, and dependence upon the care of others. We are ‘People With AIDS.”
So who supports these findings?!
Community support has been pouring in from organizations and individuals from all over the globe, like A Positive Tomorrow. The National Institute of Health, in support, states that undetectable individuals who have a suppressed (Undetectable) viral load for 6 months and adhere to their treatment are at a negligible risk of transmitting HIV to their sexual partners. Negligible meaning not enough to even consider. The Partner Study entering its last year has 58,000 documented cases of condom less sex between serodiscordant couples, also known as magnetic with one person living with HIV and the other with a negative status, and zero transmissions from any of those interactions when the couples were monogamous.
So what’s the big deal? Well besides the minds this new data may eases, it can also have legal and medical applications. The most immediate that comes to mind, HIV specific laws based on old information. These laws I’m referring to are laws that criminalize being HIV positive. When criminalizing acts in which transmission cannot occur, such as spitting or loitering (Ohio Rev. Code § 2907.241), stigma is being created and sustained by the government through the prosecution of people living with HIV. One such case as a homeless Texas man sentenced to 35 years in prison for spitting on someone while he is living with HIV.
So what can you do with this information? To start with it’s important that we get this information out there so the public knows that people living with HIV; whom adhere to their treatment and are undetectable, are at no risk for spreading HIV to sexual partners. You can do this by following the U=U Campaign on Facebook or other social media for real time updates.
Billy Eugene Willis III