Drug cocktails designed to suppress the progression of HIV can completely stop the sexual transmission of the disease when taken appropriately, researchers at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill have confirmed.
The landmark research confirmed results initially reported in 2011, taken from a study that canvassed more than 1,700 couples globally. The study found that certain AIDS medication cocktails known as antiretroviral therapy (ART) could, if taken regularly, suppress HIV to the point that a carrier would have no chance of transmitting HIV to their partner during sex with a condom.
The findings were announced at the International AIDS Society Conference in Vancouver on Monday by AIDS researcher Myron Cohen, UNC’s chief of the Institute for Global Health & Infectious Diseases.
Cohen even suggested that if ART could be distributed globally, the therapy could eradicate new HIV transmissions by the time all the world’s currently HIV-positive people died of natural deaths.
“If people are taking their pills reliably and they’re taking them for some period of time, the probability of transmission in this study is actually zero,” Cohen told The News & Observer. “Let me say it another way: We never saw a case of HIV transmission in a person who is stably suppressed on ART.”
Still, Cohen and other health professionals caution that ART is not a “vaccine,” and encourage people to continue using safe sex practices outside of ART.