The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently announced that HIV transmission cannot occur through any sexual act if the individuals have viral loads that cannot be detected.
Undetectable levels are HIV levels that are so low that they cannot be transmitted from the patient to another person through sexual intercourse. This means that a person with such low HIV levels cannot infect any other person and will not suffer most of the problems associated with having HIV.
The CDC reached this conclusion after studying thousands of couples having sex without the use of condoms or HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PReP), an HIV prevention drug. Three HIV trends have been hailed for lowering HIV viral load.
1. Antiviral Drugs (ART)
Antiviral drugs are drugs used to treat viral infections such as HIV. These drugs are the preferred drug regime as they are harmless to the individual and have low side effects. For HIV positive individuals, the treatment involves taking antiretroviral therapy (ARVs). These are a mixture of different antiviral drugs.
The combination of antiviral drugs is believed to be more effective than taking just one drug. The ARVs slow down HIV growth rate in the body to the point that the viral load becomes undetectable.
2. Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PReP) PrEP
PReP is a preventive ART administered to individuals at high risk of getting infected with HIV. PrEP is a cocktail of tenofovir and emtricitabine, two antiviral drugs. Emtricitabine is especially helpful in preventing the virus from replicating itself.
Many studies have shown that PReP can decrease the risk of acquiring HIV by over 90% if taken the right way. Commitment to the PrEP course is what determines how effective the drug will be.
For PrEP to work, it must be taken daily consistently without skipping doses. The drug has been found to have very minimal and harmless side effects. PrEP does not treat HIV but rather prevents an HIV- person from getting the virus.
3. Post-Exposure Prophylaxis PEP
This a type of ART taken after possible exposure to HIV. HIV PEP is best taken within 72 hours post exposure for it to be effective. The drug should be from a STD clinic that has experience working with such cases like Shim clinic it with is then taken for 28 consecutive days for it to prevent the person from acquiring the virus.
To increase the effectiveness of PEP you must adhere to the treatment plan by making sure you access it in a timely manner and take it daily without failure.
The Future of HIV Prevention Treatment
HIV PEP and PrEP have completely changed the way we approach HIV treatment as they are now allowing infected people to enjoy a full life without putting the uninfected people at risk of getting infected.
Unfortunately stigma is still high in most places and there are still many people who do not understand the disease. There is need to continue creating HIV awareness and promote support for these treatment and prevention drugs.
ARTs are also still unavailable in most countries especially in Africa and some parts of Asia. These, unfortunately are the places with some of the highest HIV prevalence in the world. To make the drugs reachable to everyone, there is need to reduce their cost as we continue to look for a cure for HIV.