Today in Scotland, HIV is considered a manageable long-term health condition, with treatments allowing people to live long, healthy lives.

Despite this, gay and bisexual men continue to be disproportionately affected by HIV, often driven by stigma and discrimination.

SX is proud to support the internationally-backed Undetectable=Untransmittable Consensus Statement – a powerful message to challenge stigma and reduce new infections.

Undetectable=Untransmittable, or U=U for short is a simple message – that a person living with HIV, who achieves and maintains an undetectable viral load, cannot pass on HIV through sex.

Find out more about what it means below…

What Does on 'Undetectable' mean?

HIV treatments work by reducing the levels of HIV in a person’s body. When this level (or viral load) gets below a certain point HIV becomes undetectable.

If someone is living with HIV, their clinician will be able to confirm if they are undetectable with a simple blood test. This is usually a part of routine HIV appointments.

There are a couple of important points to remember about being undetectable:

  • It can take up to six months of treatment for a person to reach undetectable levels
  • A person can only stay undetectable if they continue to take treatment as directed by a clinician

HIV treatment is a life-long commitment, but support is available for people who are struggling.

What Does on 'Untransmittable' mean?

There is now clear, scientific evidence, backed by HIV specialists around the world, that a person who is living with HIV, who is on treatment, and who has achieved and maintains an undetectable viral load CANNOT pass HIV on through sex.

So Undetectable=Untransmittable.

Again, there are a couple of important points to remember:

  • U=U only prevents HIV being passed on through sex – it doesn’t prevent transmission by other routes such as sharing injecting equipment
  • U=U is only about HIV and does not prevent the transmission of other STIs – correct use of condoms and lube remains the best protection against a range of STIs
Why is U=U important?

Many men who are living with HIV have come to experience significant stigma in relation to the sex they have. Men can often encounter this when they disclose their HIV status on apps. 

U=U is a powerful challenge to this stigma. It highlights not only that treatment can help people living with HIV to live well, but also that treatment can play a role, alongside condoms, regular testing and PrEP, in stopping the spread of HIV.

The first step to U=U is to encourage men to know their HIV status by accessing regular testing.

If you want to know more about U=U and the science behind it, visit the Prevention Access Campaign website.