Being Undetectable Improves Your Life
Antiretroviral treatment, which allows for HIV to be controlled, has been researched for decades to find the best strategy for people with the infection to live longer and better.
Today we know that it is best to start treatment as soon as a person is diagnosed, and the next goal is to achieve an undetectable viral load within six months. But what exactly does that mean?
Viral load is the number of copies of HIV in a person’s blood. When that person begins antiretroviral treatment and follows it, their viral load drops so much that it becomes undetectable (that is, less than 50 copies per milliliter of blood).
It is important to have viral load tests done regularly to make sure that the treatment is working and that the undetectable level is maintained.
The undetectable status brings important benefits both for the person with HIV and socially:
Protect Other People
The probability of transmitting HIV is related to the amount of virus that circulates both in the blood and in body fluids such as semen and vaginal fluids. If the virus is undetectable, the viral load will be very low in these fluids.
When the viral load has remained undetectable for six continuous months, the possibility that the person transmits the infection to another through the sexual route is zero. For this reason, the phrase Undetectable = Untransmittable (I = I) was coined to name this situation.
Keeps You Healthier
When the viral load is undetectable, HIV cannot reproduce. It also won’t be able to infect new cells in the body, so you are more likely to have a healthy immune system.
In addition to this is the benefit for mental health. Many people with HIV feel that they are a threat to others (their sexual or romantic partners, for example), so knowing that with an undetectable load you cannot transmit it can bring relief and a new perspective on this chronic infection with which you live.
For many years, people were afraid to live with or even get close to someone with HIV. It was thought that the virus could be transmitted through everyday contact (in the same home, the same school, or the same workplace). This led to the creation of a great stigma around people with HIV.
By spreading knowledge that an undetectable viral load dramatically reduces the risk of infection, it will also help reduce the stigma afflicting people with HIV.
For example, some laws penalize certain actions of people with HIV, such as consensual sexual relations, considering that the simple fact of having the virus diagnosed puts the life of another person at risk. This should be reversed if all the scientific support for I = I is taken into account.
If you were diagnosed with HIV, being undetectable will improve your life in many ways. If you need help on how and where to receive treatment, come to AHF Latin America and the Caribbean and we can direct you. Find the closest wellness center or ally center to your city or write to us via WhatsApp.
***With information from The Well Project, Ministry of Health and Social Development of Argentina, and UNAIDS.