When an HIV-positive person takes HIV medicines for their own well-being, they also experience the added benefit of preventing others from becoming infected. It’s known as being undetectable, although you may hear it by other names, including “viral suppression,” “treatment as prevention,” “treatment is prevention,” or “undetectable=untransmittable (U=U).”
What does being undetectable mean?
When someone living with HIV takes effective medicines every day, the amount of virus in their body becomes undetectable—that is, the amount of HIV is so low that blood tests can’t find it.
While this doesn’t mean that a person living with HIV is cured, being undetectable does stop HIV from actively damaging their immune system and virtually eliminates the risk of passing HIV to another person.
I’m HIV positive. What does being undetectable mean for me and my partners?
When you’re undetectable, it means you’re taking care of your health by keeping HIV from making copies of itself and damaging your immune system. This is key to staying healthy with HIV.
If you’re HIV-positive with an undetectable viral load and have condomless anal or vaginal sex with an HIV- negative person, it’s virtually impossible for your partner to get HIV. However, even if your viral load is undetectable, talking openly with your partners about your HIV status—as well as their status—is still important. Your HIV-negative partners may also consider taking PrEP for extra protection.
It’s important that your doctor is knowledgeable about HIV and comfortable with developing a plan that’s right for you. It’s also critical to keep all of your appointments and stay up to date on exams, lab work, and your medication routine. Be sure to get your viral load tested as often as your doctor advises. If your viral load should become detectable, your sex partners may be at risk for getting HIV if they’re not on PrEP and/or if you’re not using condoms.