Antiretroviral Therapy to Prevent Sexual Transmission of HIV (Treatment as Prevention)
Last Updated: December 18, 2019; Last Reviewed: December 18, 2019
Panel’s Recommendations Regarding Using Antiretroviral Therapy to Prevent Sexual Transmission of HIV
- All persons with HIV should be informed that maintaining a plasma HIV RNA (viral load) of <200 copies/mL, including any measurable value below this threshold value, with antiretroviral therapy (ART) prevents sexual transmission of HIV to their partners. Patients may recognize this concept as Undetectable = Untransmittable or U=U (AII).
- Persons with HIV who are starting ART should use another form of prevention with sexual partners (e.g., condoms, pre-exposure prophylaxis [PrEP] for the HIV-negative sexual partner, sexual abstinence) for at least the first 6 months of treatment and until a viral load of <200 copies/mL has been documented (AII). Many experts would recommend confirming sustained suppression before assuming that there is no further risk of sexual HIV transmission (AIII).
- When the viral load is ≥200 copies/mL, additional methods are needed to prevent transmission of HIV to sexual partners until resuppression to <200 copies/mL has been confirmed (AIII).
- Persons with HIV who intend to rely upon ART for prevention need to maintain high levels of ART adherence (AIII). They should be informed that transmission is possible during periods of poor adherence or treatment interruption (AIII).
- At each visit for HIV care, clinicians should assess adherence to ART and counsel patients regarding the importance of ART to their own health as well as its role in preventing sexual HIV transmission (AIII).
- Providers should inform patients that maintaining a viral load of <200 copies/mL does not prevent acquisition or transmission of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) (AII).
- Providers should also routinely screen all sexually active persons with HIV for STIs, both for their own health and to prevent transmission of STIs to others (AIII).