“The concept of U=U is the foundation of being able to end the epidemic.” Anthony S. Fauci, M.D., Director, NIAID, NIH Interview at International AIDS Conference (July, 2019)
The current COVID pandemic has thrust the public into better understanding viruses, viral transmissions, and terms like “flattening the curve.” It’s also got people more comfortable or familiar talking about how to reduce the risk of transmission, the importance of testing and knowing your status. And some people have experienced stigma related to getting or spreading COVID, or more likely wearing or not wearing a mask.
Those of us living with HIV know all of this already. We live with it every day.
That’s why I think NOW is the best time to be talking about U=U. It’s a game changer for ending the HIV epidemic – but one that isn’t being talked about enough in Indiana. I believe that needs to change. Our health and the health of our community depends on it.
It is a scientific fact that a person living with HIV who is on treatment and has an undetectable viral load cannot transmit HIV through sex. Full stop, end of story. U=U: With an Undetectable viral load, HIV is Untransmittable to sexual partners. For more information, check out http://uequalsu.org/ or https://www.untransmittable.org/
This is HUGE. Why? Because it gives us freedom and hope. It frees us from the shame and fear of sexual transmission to our partners. It gives us hope of dismantling the HIV stigma that has plagued us since the beginning of this epidemic. It gives us better health because the virus is less able to attack our immune system cells, which means that there will be less damage to our immune system.
I also believe U=U is the most effective way to prevent HIV transmission. Yes, I’m glad there is PrEP and PEP as additional tools in the fight to end the HIV epidemic. They are especially important as they give HIV- individuals choices about their health. But let’s be clear – if all people living with HIV were able to get into & stay in care, PrEP and PEP would not be required!
I know the world isn’t that simple. And it’s important to know that people living with HIV are more than just our lab results, and value isn’t dictated by viral load. No one living with HIV is a danger. I also know that ultimately, we need and deserve a cure. But, as people living with HIV, I want us to realize what a powerful message U=U is for us. The science backs us up. The time for excuses is over.
For all these reasons and more, #CelebrateUU is also about Celebrating U=U! I still want to encourage individuals living with HIV to start recognizing and celebrating our anniversaries of having an undetectable viral load.
But, I also want to use this platform to Celebrate U=U as a concept – as the most effective tool in our fight to end the HIV epidemic!
You have probably have a lot more questions about this! For a lot of answers, I’d encourage you to check out the FAQs at https://www.preventionaccess.org/faq. I also welcome conversation about U=U because I’m super passionate about it. Feel free to reply here with questions or comments or find me on social media.
C. Todd Fuqua
Founder & Artivist – #CelebrateUU