HIV factsheet: U = U for health professionals
U = U (Undetectable = Untransmittable)
Early initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) improves overall health and prevents sexual transmission of HIV. The goal of treatment is to achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load. Studies have shown that effective ART prevents sexual transmission of HIV
People living with HIV who take ART and who achieve and maintain an undetectable viral load have effectively no risk of transmitting HIV sexually.
Integrate U = U into routine HIV care
- Adherence to ART is essential for achieving and maintaining an undetectable viral load.
- It can take up to 6 months to achieve an undetectable viral load.
- Regular viral load testing is the only way to know if viral levels are undetectable.
- At least 2 consecutive undetectable results over a 6 month period are required before U = U can be used as a prevention strategy.
- An undetectable viral load does not prevent transmission or acquisition of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
- In addition to U = U, other highly effective ways of preventing HIV transmission/acquisition include condoms and oral pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
Condoms are the only effective strategy to help prevent other STIs.
Viral load: amount of HIV in the blood.
Undetectable: viral load less than 20 to 30 copies/ml and cannot be detected by standard tests.
Untransmittable: when an undetectable viral load prevents the sexual transmission of HIV.