A new initiative called Accuracy Watchdog aims to correct erroneous reporting about HIV transmission risks. A partnership between LGBT advocacy group Human Rights Campaign (HRC) and Prevention Access Campaign (PAC), Accuracy Watchdog launched this month.
The joint initiative will, for example, correct scientific misinformation pertaining to people living with HIV who are on treatment and maintain an undetectable viral load—a concept known as treatment as prevention (TasP)—and to HIV-negative people adhering to the daily pill Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).
“PAC is one of a growing number of organizations, including HRC, to champion the fact that people living with HIV cannot transmit the virus to a partner if they’ve consistently taken their medication and achieved an ‘undetectable viral load,’” according to an HRC announcement about the joint initiative.
“We created the Accuracy Watchdog after finding major inaccuracies about PrEP and undetectability in news articles and on HIV information sites. After securing multiple corrections (e.g., last year, we corrected an inaccuracy about PrEP’s effectiveness in a widely shared Newsweek article), we found there weren’t any organizations consistently monitoring the media for mistakes such as the one we found in the Newsweek article. Nor were there any organizations consistently following up on these errors. This is a problem because misinformation leaves people ill-equipped to make informed decisions about their sexual and reproductive health, and too often perpetuates harmful myths about people living with and affected by HIV,” explain PAC’s Bruce Richman and John Byrne in the HRC interview.
They continue: “The majority of people living with HIV are still being led to believe that they will be infectious for the rest of their lives or until there is a cure. The message that we’re no longer capable of passing HIV on to others is the defining moment that many have been waiting for. It lifts the shame and the fear of transmitting the virus on to someone you love, someone you have sex with or someone with whom you conceive a child.
“We believe sharing this information will help dismantle HIV stigma, which is not only harmful to people living with HIV but is perhaps the greatest barrier to ending the epidemic. For some people living with HIV, staying undetectable and therefore uninfectious is a reason to start and stay on treatment.”