Undetectable means Untransmittable: Anti-Stigma Campaign in EECA countries
AFEW International supports the large-scale campaign “Неопределяемый значит не передающий” (Undetectable means Untransmittable) aimed at overcoming stigma against people living with HIV. Experts and activists from Eastern European and Central Asian countries also take part in the flash mob.
Research studies confirm the effectiveness of the “treatment as prevention” approach to prevent the sexual pathway of the spread of HIV. In 2014, the PARTNER study conducted in 14 European countries, showed no cases of HIV transmission in 44,000 cases of unprotected sex in discordant couples (1,145 couples totally took part in the study). The study report, published in 2016, showed a complete absence of HIV transmission in more than 58,000 cases of condomless sex. In July 2017, the Opposites Attract study gave additional evidence in favor of the fact that HIV is not transmitted if the viral load is undetectable. This study was conducted in Australia among 358 serodiscordant gay couples in Australia, Thailand, and Brazil, and showed zero cases of HIV transmission among HIV positive people with undetectable viral load and their sexual partners. Just recently, in September 2017, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) confirmed the thesis that undetectable viral load prevents sexual transmission of HIV. In November, the Lancet HIV wrote that “CDC officially backing the science behind the campaign is another key step towards U=U being the most important message of 2017 in the fight against HIV.”
“Н = Н” is the Russian-language part of the global U = U (Undetectable means Untransmittable) campaign, which was launched by American activist Bruce Richman in early 2016. Its core is the Consensus Statement of experts and professional organizations that undetectable viral load prevents sexual transmission of HIV. By November 2016, more than 475 organizations from 65 countries of the world joined the campaign. Currently, more AIDS centers, NGOs, and activist organizations from the EECA countries keep joining the campaign. Signatures have been received from Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Estonia. In our region, the campaign is supported by Life4me+.
Today, the science provides more and more evidence that undetectable viral load prevents sexual transmission of HIV, but in Eastern Europe and Central Asia a few people except experts are aware of it. The first Russian-language campaign “Н=Н” (Неопределяемый значит не передающий, Undetectable means Untransmittable), aims to convey this information to as many people as possible. For this purpose, the Consensus Statement and information about the campaign have been translated into Russian.
From October 16 to December 1, 2017, the participants of the campaign tell that today there is an opportunity to curb the spread of HIV through broad access to treatment, early detection and high adherence, and that the stigma of people living with HIV is based on groundless fears and outdated views on the epidemic. The key message of the campaign is that HIV is no longer the “plague of the XXI century.” It is a chronic infection, with which one can have a good quality of life. With HIV, people can create families and have children, run marathons and make great careers, grow old and retire, just like people without HIV.
It is important to remember that “U=U” does not mean the possibility of not using other means of prevention. Unprotected sex can still lead to sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancies. In addition, due to limited access to treatment or other reasons, people may have obstacles to achieving an undetectable viral load.
Everyone from any Eastern Europe and Central Asia country can join the campaign. Organizations can sign the Consensus Statement, and individuals are invited to participate in an online flash mob by making a photo with the campaign logo and uploading it on social networks with a hashtag “НравноН.”