Australian drag superstar Courtney Act has joined the New Zealand AIDS Foundation for a new campaign raising awareness of HIV treatment and “undetectable viral loads” in people living with HIV.
According to the latest research, people living with HIV who are on successful treatment are incapable of passing HIV on to their sexual partners if they have an “undetectable viral load”.
“An ex-boyfriend of mine is living with HIV,” Courtney explained.
“He has an undetectable viral load so I know firsthand how this can affect people in a serodiscordant couple – which is where one partner is HIV-negative and one is HIV-positive.
“It was great to know he could have much better health in the long run and that scientific evidence shows he was unable to pass on HIV on to me, even without condoms.
“For people living with HIV, the knowledge that undetectable equals untransmittable is huge news, not only as a means of preventing transmission, but in breaking down the stigma that many people still experience.
“We live in a fear-based world where HIV stigma can prevail, but armed with science and facts I was able to break down the stigma in my own mind and be in a happy and healthy relationship with my partner.”
The New Zealand AIDS Foundation (NZAF) explains, “When copies of HIV cannot be detected by standard viral load tests, a person living with HIV is said to have an ‘undetectable viral load.’
“Most people diagnosed with HIV will be able to achieve an undetectable viral load. Chances increase with an early diagnosis, which is why regular testing for HIV is important.
“The main benefit of an undetectable viral load is better quality of life and long-term health outcomes for people living with HIV.
“While having an undetectable viral load means there is no risk of HIV transmission, it will not protect from acquisition or transmission of other STIs like syphilis or gonorrhoea.
“Because of this, NZAF recommends keeping condoms in the mix with casual partners, as well as having a regular sexual health check-up.”