The Prevention Access Campaign’s Undetectable = Untransmittable or U=U campaign is close to my heart. It wasn’t until I first shared the U=U campaign’s key message that I understood its power. It was in an HIV prevention group I moderate PrEP Facts: Rethinking HIV Prevention and Sex. An HIV positive woman had questions about transmission risks and PrEP. She was undetectable and wanted to know if her boyfriend could safely have sex with her if he took Truvada as PrEP. I explained it wasn’t possible for her to transmit HIV if her viral load were undetectable. Why had she been allowed to think she was a danger to others, she wondered. Mostly she was grateful to hear this revelatory news.
Since then I’ve been blessed to hear so many stories of how the campaign has touched the lives of other people living with HIV. A woman who I will call Sylvia was kind enough to share how the campaign has affected her life.
Sylvia’s partner was very sick. Together they went to get tested for HIV. The results were positive. Sylvia focused on being strong for her partner in what would be the last two weeks of his life.
Sylvia grappled with the grief of sudden loss and her new reality as a woman living with HIV. Sylvia experienced depression and felt alone. Relationships and intimacy were a minefield of stigma. That is until she encountered the U=U message.
The fear of transmitting HIV to a loved one or sexual partner confronts many people living with HIV. For many, an HIV diagnosis comes with feelings of being toxic or a danger to those with whom they are intimate.
U=U assuages those fears with facts. People with an undetectable viral load are incapable of transmitting HIV through sex. As long as a person maintains an undetectable viral load they pose no risk to their sexual partners.
This powerful message is transforming lives.
This is vital information for people living with HIV as well as the general public. But it is seldom shared by those working with the affected community.
Using the #UequalsU hashtag the campaign is empowering people with the facts. It has galvanized an online community to dismantle stigma and fear. Healthline honored the campaign as 2016’s best use of social media for HIV advocacy.
For Sylvia, the U=U message restored her strength. It renewed her hope for a long and healthy life committed to her health and to her children.
Sylvia now spreads the U=U message at every opportunity. She says people living with HIV need to live free from criticism and judgment. She knows undoing years of stigma won’t happen overnight but she is confident it will be done.
Sylvia says, in life, there is no going back but we are never alone. She reminds that there are so many out there who share the U=U campaign’s commitment to restoring hope for us all.