Industry News

What undetectable levels of HIV really means …

I want to clarify an issue that we’ve talked about before with John Stagliano, from Evil Angel, who is also HIV positive and now of course we have the big Charlie Sheen issue.

As of right now there is no cure for HIV. If you have HIV you can take your (very expensive) meds and manage your condition until your viral load becomes undetectable. However that does not mean you are cured — despite what some people try and tell you. You still have HIV. You will always have HIV because there is no cure.

Having an undetectable viral load greatly lowers your chance of transmitting the virus to your sexual and drug-using partners who are HIV-negative. However, even when your viral load is undetectable, HIV can still exist in semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, breast milk, and other parts of your body. For this reason, you should continue to take steps to prevent HIV transmission.

For example: HIV may still be found in your genital fluids (semen or vaginal fluids). The viral load test only measures the amount of HIV in your blood. Although ART also lowers viral load in genital fluids, HIV can sometimes be present in your genital fluids even when it is undetectable in your blood.

Your viral load may go up between tests. When this happens, you may be more likely to transmit HIV to your partner(s). Your viral load may go up without you knowing it because you may not feel any different.

Sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) can increase your viral load in your genital fluids. This means that if you are living with HIV and also have an STD, you may be able to transmit HIV to your partner(s) even if your viral load is undetectable.



Some people may think getting HIV is no big deal because you can control it with medicine. In fact one long time industry veteran said just that. He’s an idiot. But that aside, let me give you the facts. HIV is treated using a combination of medicines in a treatment called antiretroviral therapy. Such medicines prevent HIV from multiplying and allows the immune system to recover. These combination of medicines, often referred to as a “cocktail” cost between $2,000 and $5,000 a month and must be taken 4 times a day, 7 days a week, every day for the rest of your life. And that’s just so you can live. That of course doesn’t factor in the reported pain and debilitating health issues caused by taking the very medicine you need to survive, in the long term.

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