August 5, 2008
Does Undetectable Equal Uninfectious?
Hours before the XVII International AIDS Conference began in Mexico City, A panel of experts engaged in a heated debate over statements made by the Swiss Federal AIDS Commission in January, which affirmed that an undetectable viral load renders an HIV-positive person uninfectious under optimal conditions, Aidsmap.com reports.
“We never thought of it as a statement that was to be delivered worldwide,” says Pietro Vernazza, MD, president of the Swiss Federal AIDS Commission. “It was meant only to be delivered to Swiss physicians to help them discuss sexual risk-taking with their patients and their steady partners.”
According to the article, Dr. Vernazza added that the title of the statement—“HIV-positive people with no other STIs and on effective antiretroviral therapy do not transmit HIV sexually”—was “misleading.” The statement was made primarily to protect positive people in Switzerland, where HIV exposure laws enable the state to prosecute HIV-positive people who had unprotected sex with HIV-negative and fully informed partners. Vernazza affirmed that the statement could be used in court to show that positive people on effective treatment could not expose or transmit the virus.
Vernazza says the statement was made to clear up discrepancies between what some doctors tell their patients privately and what they say in public to eliminate what he calls the “risk of uncontrolled diffusion” of information regarding HIV transmission.
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