WHY TREATMENT AND EARLY TREATMENT IS CRITICAL TO END HIV
The most common way for HIV to be transmitted between men is through anal sex without condoms. The risk is high whether you are topping or bottoming. The higher the level of HIV in your blood/semen (your ‘viral load’), the more likely you will pass on HIV.
The great news about what modern treatments can do for you
Modern treatments are highly effective at reducing HIV in your blood to ‘undetectable’ levels. Undetectable viral load doesn’t mean you have zero or no HIV in your blood but it means that treatments have dramatically reduced the level of HIV in your blood to very low levels (detectable only by highly specialised, sensitive pathology tests). In addition to great health benefits, having an undetectable viral load drastically reduces the risk of passing HIV onto another person during sex.
Why the most critical time is right after becoming HIV positive
You may not know you’ve been infected with HIV but in those early stages of HIV infection your viral load is very high. That greatly increases the risk of HIV transmission. HIV is much more likely to be transmitted by people who don’t know they’ve got it – often very soon after they have been infected. That’s why it’s so important to test regularly and get onto treatment early. If you know your HIV status, you can make informed choices about your health and decisions about the sort of sex you’ll have.
When it comes to treatments, what’s life like for gay men with HIV in Australia?
Australia’s high quality HIV services and health system mean people with HIV are well supported in terms of treatment and care. Most people diagnosed with HIV are on treatment and the majority are working and leading pretty normal lives.
Of course, this is not the case for everyone with HIV and clearly if you can avoid contracting a lifelong chronic disease, with all the uncertainties and difficulties that can bring, then you should.
What needs to change in Australia’s HIV-positive gay community?
To end HIV we need a treatment uptake rate of at least 90% of gay men living with HIV – an achievable goal. The more gay men who reach and maintain undetectable viral load the better, as this will result in better health outcomes and fewer new cases of HIV.
To reach our goal, we need newly diagnosed gay men to be offered treatment as early as possible and HIV positive gay men who are not on treatment to begin treatment as soon as possible.