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March 27, 2008

POZ Founder Sean Strub Responds to Swiss Statement on Condomless Sex

The Swiss Federal Commission for HIV/AIDS released a statement recently that claimed that HIV-positive people whose viral loads have been undetectable for at least six months and who do not have any other sexually transmitted diseases are “not sexually infectious.” The statement has created a widespread stir among activists, departments of health and governments worldwide. In response to the global discussion around the issues raised by the statement, POZ founder Sean Strub wrote an essay on the Huffington Post (, 3/26) advocating that more thought should be given to developing safer-sex guidelines that include viral load as a factor that can reduce transmission risk.

“Interpreting the Swiss statement as ‘permission’ to stop using condoms would be a mistake,” he wrote. “So too would dismissing it altogether or denying its powerful message of hope.”

Strub says that a major response to the study has been skepticism about its validity. For example, some critics highlight the fact that the research was based on heterosexual couples, or that undetectable viral loads can sometimes spike unexpectedly. However, according to Strub, most critiques ignore the fact that the study demonstrates how antiretroviral therapy can be used as a piece of the HIV prevention puzzle.

“The Swiss have rightly brought viral load into the risk calculus, revolutionizing the paradigm of HIV prevention, and placing condoms in their proper place, as one tool among many to be utilized to prevent HIV transmission,” Strub wrote. “Failing to embrace the opportunity presented by the Swiss statement—to stimulate community discussion, improve the ability of individuals to accurately assess risk and encourage more research—is  irresponsible.”

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