What are Antiretrovirals?
Antiretroviral is the medical word for any HIV medication. Antiretrovirals work by lowering your viral load. Someone’s viral load is the amount of HIV in their blood, and your viral load can be read by a blood test. When you have less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood, you’re virally suppressed. If your viral load is so low that a blood test can’t read it, you’re undetectable. Being undetectable, or virally suppressed, is not the same as being cured. Researchers are still looking for a cure for HIV.
Why should I use U=U?
You should use U=U to…
1. Be more comfortable having sex and having HIV
2. Stop your sexual partner(s) from getting HIV
3. Help your community fight HIV
Still have questions about U=U? You can read more about the benefits or concerns of U=U here:
How does U=U work?
HIV medication lowers the amount of HIV virus in your blood until it is really low, or undetectable. There is still some of the viruses, so you are not cured, but the amount of virus left is so small that it won’t transmit to someone else. One way to think about it is to imagine the HIV virus has been put to sleep, but if you stop taking your medications it will wake back up again.
You need to take your medication for about 6 months before your viral load is low enough for U=U to work. Get tested by your doctor regularly to make sure you are undetectable.
If you use U=U, you may want to let your sex partner know. Sharing, or disclosing, your status can be tricky. You can read more about sharing your status as HIV-positive here:
Sharing Your Status
“I think [U=U] makes it less scary for the other person whether they’re on PrEP or not on PrEP… It makes them less anxious ‘cause you explain to them that it’s very hard to get it when I’m undetectable and taking my medication.”
—HIV-positive, African American Male