Partnering with beyondpositive, we are today releasing findings which show that HIV-positive individuals and their partners would benefit hugely from greater awareness of the HIV medication’s capacity to reduce transmission of the virus.
In a survey of more than two hundred individuals living with the virus, Saving Lives and beyondpositive discovered that more than two thirds of respondents were greatly relieved to discover that individuals on antiretroviral therapy [ART] for their HIV now have a close to zero chance of passing on their infection.
The initial results of the survey, presented on Wednesday 5th April 2017 at the 23rd British HIV Association Spring conference in Liverpool by HIV specialists Dr Stephen Taylor and Dr Matthew Page, are derived from a group in which 91% were on ART.
A clinical study known as the PARTNER study has reported zero HIV transmissions from a positive partner on ART, with an undetectable viral load, to their negative partner – despite over 58,000 instances of condomless sex being recorded.
“This is a hugely significant finding for people living with HIV,” said Tom Hayes, editor of beyondpositive, the community organisation that partnered with Saving Lives to produce the survey.
“A quarter of respondents reported that it would make them much more likely to disclose their HIV status. This is a key step in battling the stigma that still surrounds HIV, something that can dissuade people from getting tested for HIV in the first place.”
Despite this potential, over thirty percent of the respondents were unaware of the PARTNER study. Only a third reported having had the study proactively explained to them by their healthcare professional.
“The findings of the PARTNER study are hugely significant and have the power to transform how we treat HIV, how those living with the virus feel about their lives and condition, and also how we as a society perceive the virus,” said Dr Steve Taylor, Medical Director of Saving Lives.
“All of these developments could be hugely positive – if we get the message out there. Too few of our respondents had detailed knowledge of the study’s results, and yet were greatly reassured once they were informed.”
Saving Lives, along with beyondpositive, is therefore calling for renewed effort on the part of healthcare professionals, public health departments, and charities to promote the significant health benefits of getting tested and getting treated. “The study needs to be promoted in the media as much as the 1980s HIV epidemic was promoted,” one respondent to the survey insisted.
“Over 20,000 people in the UK are unaware that they are living with HIV” added Dr Matt Page. “Not knowing your status has can have serious consequences for your health, and the health of your partners. Many are reluctant to test precisely because we as a profession haven’t yet updated the public’s understanding of HIV.
“HIV remains a chronic condition, but those living with the virus can still live a long, full, and exciting life. They can have healthy, fullfilling relationships and even start families naturally, but only if they are on treatment. We need to reboot the public’s perceptions of HIV – and this survey proves that such a change could significantly improve people’s wellbeing.”
Lizzie is one of Saving Lives’ positive ambassadors. “Many of us who live with HIV find the stigma that surrounds the virus one of the hardest issues to deal with. Studies like PARTNER and surveys like this one prove that this out-dated prejudice is unnecessary and actively damaging to people’s health.
“We need to shout from the roof-tops that HIV is treatable – and, if you access that treatment, you can be non-infectious, too. It’s time to transform our national conversation about HIV.”