U = U: What is it and why is it important to me?
Close photo of men forehead to forehead.

Understanding the life-saving campaign aiming to end HIV

If you’re HIV-positive and want to have risk-free sex… you need to understand U=U. 


U=U is how you can reduce your chances of passing HIV on. It will allow you to have a relationship with someone who is not HIV positive.

How U=U began

In 2016, Prevention Access Campaign launched U=U as an awareness campaign highlighting the importance of HIV medications and treatment plans.

The campaign seems to be working. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates an 8% decrease in HIV infections between 2015 and 2019

U=U stands for Undetectable = Untransmittable. 

What does undetectable mean? 

The amount of HIV in the blood is called viral load and is measured by copies/ml or ‘viral copies per milliliter of blood.’

In the weeks after someone gets HIV, their viral load is usually very high then drops to roughly 50,000 copies/ml. At this level, a person has a considerable risk of passing on HIV.

Taking HIV medicine as prescribed lowers your viral load. If the number drops below 200 copies/ml, it is called an undetectable viral load.

When you reach an undetectable HIV status, the virus can become untransmittable.

What does untransmittable mean? 

If you’re taking your HIV medication as prescribed and your viral load becomes undetectable, the virus can become untransmittable – meaning you won’t spread it to others.

This is the basis of U=U. Undetectable = Untransmittable.

Without an undetectable viral load, you can spread HIV through syringe sharing, pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. You cannot spread HIV through saliva, tears, sweat, or hugging.

What medications make me undetectable and untransmittable?

If you’re HIV positive, talk to your doctor about antiretroviral therapy (ART). This HIV medicine reduces the amount of HIV in your body, getting it under control within 6 months.

Staying on treatment is crucial to keeping the virus suppressed. If the medication is not taken as prescribed, the person may not maintain an undetectable viral load.

Need a doctor to discuss HIV treatment or medication? Let us connect you with one.

What about PrEP? 

PrEP, short for pre-exposure prophylaxis, is a great tool for those who are not HIV positive to protect them from getting HIV.

Encourage your partner(s) to take PrEP to prevent the spread of HIV.

How about PEP? 

PEP, short for post-exposure prophylaxis, is a medicine for emergency use. It must be taken within 72 hours of a possible exposure to HIV to prevent the virus from taking hold in your body

Remember: To get to U=U, you must first get tested, know your status, and start an HIV treatment. Click here to find a testing location near you.

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