Treatment as Prevention
Treatment as Prevention is an exciting new way of looking at the prevention of HIV transmission.
We are now closer than ever to preventing the sexual transmission of HIV, and it has a lot to do with the major advances in treatment that have been achieved in recent years.
The role of treatment in preventing HIV transmission has become known as Treatment as Prevention (‘TasP’).
Treatment as Prevention can be considered in two parts:
- Medication can be taken by an HIV positive person to dramatically reduce the possibility of transmitting HIV.
- Medication can be taken by an HIV negative person in the form of PEP (Post Exposure Prophylaxis) or PrEP (Pre Exposure Prophylaxis) to prevent becoming HIV positive.
How does Treatment make a difference to prevention?
With early and accessible treatment now influencing the ability to eliminate the sexual transmission of HIV – including options for an HIV negative person to take treatment – treatment is now a key aspect to HIV prevention.
This is particularly valuable for couples in which one person is HIV positive and the other HIV negative (a sero-discordant relationship). Recent interim study findings in gay men found no observed HIV transmissions among sero-discordant couples when the HIV-positive partner was on treatment with undetectable viral load. Despite these initial findings, condoms are still recommended to prevent HIV, click here to read more.
Benefits of Early Treatment?
For a person living with HIV, there is growing evidence for the benefits of early treatment options, which have advanced prevention opportunities. A number of the benefits to early treatment are:
- Early treatment can result in an undetectable viral load, which has the potential to reduce the risk of passing on HIV to a regular sexual partner by 96% (with continued condom use)
- Lowering the amount of virus in the blood (to an undetectable level) improves long term health outcomes for people living with HIV (for more info about starting treatment, go to When should I start treatment).
The most important thing for people living with HIV is to be able to make an informed decision about treatment options so they can effectively manage their own health. Check out our Treating HIV section to gain accurate info on your rights to treatment access and treatment options. You can also speak to QPP if you want to chat to someone in person.
Understanding undetectable viral load
Viral load is a term used to describe when a clinician measures the amount of HIV in a blood sample. One of the goals of treatment is to reach undetectable viral load. This has two distinct benefits:
- The virus is suppressed and the immune system can be strengthened again, preventing disease progression and illness; and
- There is a much lower risk of developing resistance to a person’s antiretroviral drugs.
Undetectable viral load is achieved when treatment reduces the amount of HIV RNA copies per millilitre of blood to less than 40/ml (that number can vary slightly to 20 or 50 depending on the test, but the basic principle is the same: there is substantially less virus circulating in blood).
The level of HIV can be undetectable in someone’s blood, but the level of HIV could be higher in other parts of the body, such as sexual fluids. That is part of the reason why condom use is always encouraged in combination with treatment to virtually eliminate the risk of sexual transmission.
To find out more information about TasP, you can speak to our team toll free from a land-line on 1800 636 241, use the contact form provided or call (07) 3013 5555 (nationally).