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"People on effective HIV treatment cannot pass on the virus"

WALKING TALL: Miss Congo UK Horcelie Sinda (image credit: J McGill Winston)

MEDICAL EVIDENCE has shown that people living with HIV and who are on effective treatment cannot pass on the virus.

However, a major new survey by Terrence Higgins Trust has shown that only 9% of the British public are aware of this fact, which is proven by scientific research.

The charity is now warning that out-of-date beliefs about HIV transmission are fuelling stigma and discrimination, which prevents people coming forward for testing.

Around one in three (32%) adults would feel uncomfortable giving First Aid to someone living with HIV who is on effective treatment, according to the YouGov survey of 2,022 adults. Meanwhile, nearly 40% of the public would be uncomfortable going on a date with someone living with HIV who is on effective treatment, and nearly 1 in 4 (22%) felt the same way about playing contact sport. There is no risk of getting HIV from any of these situations.

Dr Michael Brady, Medical Director at Terrence Higgins Trust, said:

“It is saddening to see that, in 2017, people are still being treated differently because of their HIV status.

“These fears are unfounded, because we can say, with confidence, that people who are on effective treatment can’t transmit HIV, they are not infectious.


CONFIDENT: 22-year-old Horcelie Sinda, student and Miss Congo UK is raising awareness about HIV image (image credit: J McGill Winston)

“There is no reason people on effective HIV treatment can’t date, fall in love, have sex, work or have families just like anyone else. We urgently need to bring people up to date with medical evidence and listen to science, not stigma.”

For the past 20 years, evidence has been building to show that the likelihood of passing on HIV is linked to the amount of the virus in the blood (‘viral load’). Treatment is deemed effective when it reduces this to undetectable levels. This can take up to six months from starting treatment.

Last summer, the landmark PARTNER study provided medical evidence that people with an ‘undetectable’ viral load cannot pass on HIV.

Meanwhile, one in seven people living with HIV doesn’t know they have it. This means they're not getting treatment and they can still pass on the virus.

Terrence Higgins Trust has now launched a myth-busting campaign, Can’t Pass It On, which aims to bust stigma and encourage people to get tested.

The campaign is supported by Dr. Christian Jessen, who said:

“Scientific evidence shows that people on effective treatment for HIV are not infectious. This is an extraordinary breakthrough that hasn’t yet filtered down to the public. First of all, it means there should be no new HIV infections. We can stop HIV being passed on by encouraging people to get tested and treated. Secondly, it should take away all the stigma, and it really does allow people to have relationships and live normal lives without fear. That’s why I fully support the Can’t Pass It On campaign.”

Horcelie Sinda, 22, a fine art student at Chelsea College of Art, who is also the reigning Miss Congo UK, said:

“Telling people about what ‘undetectable’ means, spreading this message that we can’t pass on HIV, is a way to give HIV positive people confidence. It’s a way to encourage people to talk about their HIV story, and it’ll normalise it – because people still have fear around HIV, and this stops people getting tested and onto treatment. We can help people to become fearless, give them confidence and enable them to live a normal life. And I’ve found that the more confident I am, the less people discriminate or treat me differently.

“Being Miss Congo UK has given me a platform to raise awareness. Taking part in it was the first time I’d disclosed my HIV status to other African communities. People are aware of me in my community now, and it means I can approach people and help them understand HIV.”

Find out more at www.tht.org.uk/cantpassiton and #cantpassiton. Every ‘share’ will help educate and change lives.

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