Uniting the world against AIDS
Antiretroviral therapy and sexual transmission of HIV
Geneva, 1 February 2008 - Following the recent publication of an article on antiretroviral
treatment and sexual transmission of HIV in the Swiss medical journal ‘Bulletin des
médecins suisses’, UNAIDS and WHO reiterate the importance of a comprehensive
approach to HIV prevention including correct and consistent use of condoms.
The article, published by Switzerland’s Federal AIDS Commission (La Commission fédérale
pour les problèmes liés au Sida), states that seropositive individuals do not risk transmitting
HIV to a seronegative partner under the following conditions: The seropositive partner has to
have had undetectable HIV in the blood for at least 6 months, there must be strict adherence
to his/her antiretroviral regimen, and he/she must be free of any other sexually transmitted
infections. In the article the Commission states that although available medical and biological
evidence does not rule out the possibility of HIV transmission they feel that there is
nonetheless enough information to support its statement.
To prevent transmission of HIV, UNAIDS and WHO strongly recommend a comprehensive
package of HIV prevention approaches, including correct and consistent use of condoms.
People living with HIV who are following an effective antiretroviral therapy regimen can
achieve undetectable viral loads (the amount of virus in a body fluid such as blood, semen or
vaginal secretions) at certain stages of their treatment. Research suggests that when the
viral load is undetectable in blood the risk of HIV transmission is significantly reduced.
However, it has not been proven to completely eliminate the risk of transmitting the virus.
More research is needed to determine the degree to which the viral load in blood predicts
the risk of HIV transmission and to determine the association between the viral load in blood
and the viral load in semen and v