What is viral load?
Viral load refers to the amount of HIV circulating in the blood of someone who has HIV, and it is measured by a blood test.
When the result comes back, viral load is indicated as a number. The lower the number, the less HIV there is in the body. The number indicates the amount of viral copies per millilitre of blood (written as copies/ml). Viral load can range from below 20 to over one million copies/ml.
What does undetectable mean?
An undetectable viral load level (UVL) is when the level of HIV in the body is so low that it cannot be detected by current tests. If a person has an UVL, it does not mean that their body is free or cured of HIV, it means that the level of HIV in the body is so low that it cannot be detected by current tests.
HIV-positive people who have been on treatment for a while can often have low of undetectable viral loads. .
In Bed with U=U
You may have heard of U=U, but do you know what it means? U=U stands for Undetectable equals Untransmittable. Having an undetectable viral load means that someone with HIV cannot transmit the virus.
Check out the video below from The Institute of Many
How does an undetectable viral load work in preventing HIV?
Current research has proved that if someone with HIV has an undetectable viral load (UVL) they cannot transmit HIV to others even if condoms are not used.
The PARTNERS Study, looked at over 22,000 cases of anal sex between gay couples when no condoms were used, and one person was HIV-positive and had an undetectable viral load and the other person was HIV-negative. They found that there were zero cases of HIV transmission. This is just one of many studies regarding viral load and HIV prevention.
Put simply, if a person has an undetectable viral load, the risk of passing HIV on is zero. This means that UVL is the most effective way of preventing HIV transmission.
Undetectable viral load and other STIs
Remember, an undetectable viral load only provides you with protection against HIV, it does not protect you against other STIs so it is important to get tested regularly for STIs and consider keeping condoms in the mix.