The Power of Undetectable: How HIV Treatment Prevents Transmission

 

First, a few basics

What is an undetectable viral load?

HIV viral load refers to the amount of HIV in the blood of a person living with HIV. If you take HIV treatment consistently as prescribed by your doctor, you can reduce your viral load to a level too low to be detected by a blood test. Once your viral load has fallen to this level, it is said to be undetectable. For most people, this happens after they take HIV treatment consistently for three to six months. Having an undetectable viral load is good for your immune system and for your long-term health.

Having an undetectable viral load does not mean you are cured of HIV. The virus is still in your body. If you stop taking HIV treatment or miss too many doses, your viral load will once again become detectable.

How can I reduce my viral load and keep it at undetectable levels?

To get your viral load to undetectable levels (and keep it there) you need to take your HIV meds as prescribed and see your doctor regularly.

The only way to know if your viral load is undetectable is to regularly have a blood test called a viral load test. You and your doctor will decide how often you should have a viral load test (probably every three to six months).

It is important to take your HIV meds consistently as prescribed to get and maintain an undetectable viral load. To help you stay on top of your pill-taking schedule, you can:

  • set an alarm on your cellphone or watch to remind you that it’s time to take your pills
  • use a pill organizer to keep track of your pills
  • ask your pharmacist to package your pills in blister packs
  • download a free app if you have a smartphone to remind you to take your meds

If you’re having trouble taking your meds as prescribed, talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist or to someone at a local HIV organization.