Treatment as Prevention and U=U for HIV

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What is TasP?

TasP stands for “Treatment as Prevention.” TasP is a method of using antiretroviral treatment (ART) as not only a treatment for HIV, but as a preventative for new infections. It is a cornerstone in ending the HIV epidemic. If a person of positive HIV status takes their ART medication, especially early on after their infection and diagnosis, their viral load of HIV will become so low that they can no longer spread the virus. This includes during sex, while pregnant and giving birth, and possibly while sharing drug equipment (but we need more research on this).

What is U=U?

U=U is TasP in action! U=U stands for “Undetectable = Untransmittable.” When your viral load of HIV is so low that it is no longer detected in blood tests, that means it is “undetectable.” Therefore, you cannot transmit HIV! Untransmittable! This means that people living with HIV can feel confident having sex without barriers like condoms, planning a pregnancy, and can feel safer while sharing drug equipment. There have been excellent, large-scale studies to prove that U=U is an effective strategy in HIV prevention.

What about other STIs?

ART and an undetectable viral load does not prevent the transmission of or treat other STIs, such as chlamydia, gonorrhea, herpes, syphilis, or HPV. This means you can both contract and spread these infections without the use of barrier methods, like condoms.

How do I make this happen for me?

The best way to make TasP and U=U work for you is to take your HIV medication exactly as prescribed, seeing your healthcare provider often, and getting blood tested when directed. Your provider will help you create a treatment and testing plan. You should wait for two consecutive blood test results with an undetectable viral load before relying on U=U to prevent spreading HIV. Be sure to ask your pharmacist, healthcare provider, or local HIV resource centre if you need any support in making sure you adhere to your medication and testing plan.

Where can I access HIV treatment?

In Nova Scotia, whichever clinic tested you for HIV, such as your family doctor, local sexual health clinic, walk-in clinic, etc., will refer you to the HIV Clinic for care. This clinic is a part of the Infectious Diseases department of the Victoria General Hospital. No matter where you are in the province, your care will be centralized in Halifax. They will, however, be able to mail out your medications.