HIV Treatment as Prevention
HIV treatment allows people living with HIV to live longer, healthier lives, and it can also help prevent HIV transmission.
Sexual HIV transmission
When taken as prescribed, HIV medications can decrease the amount of HIV present in blood to be too low to measure. This is called being undetectable.
A person living with HIV who gets and stays undetectable has effectively no risk of transmitting HIV to their sex partners.
This concept is known as Undetectable = Untransmittable (U=U). U=U only applies to sexual transmission of HIV.
How it works
- Become undetectable. This can take up to 6 months after starting HIV medication. Your health care provider will perform blood tests and let you know when you’re undetectable.
- Stay undetectable. Get a second undetectable test result at least 6 months after the first. Continue to take your HIV medications daily and visit your health care provider regularly. They will monitor your blood tests to make sure you’re still undetectable.
For more information:
Perinatal (mother-to-child) HIV transmission
All pregnant people should be tested for HIV during pregnancy. Perinatal transmission of HIV can almost always be prevented with proper medical care:
- HIV medications are taken as prescribed during pregnancy, labor and delivery
- The infant is not breastfed
- The infant receives HIV medications after birth
For more information, see Perinatal (Mother-to-Child) Transmission of HIV
Injection drug use HIV transmission
There are not enough studies to tell us how HIV treatment or being undetectable prevents HIV transmission from sharing syringes, but it is reasonable to assume that being undetectable can offer some risk reduction.
People who inject drugs or others substances should use a sterile syringe and equipment each time to prevent HIV transmission.
For more information, see Syringe Access and Disposal
Other HIV prevention methods
There are many methods to prevent HIV. Depending on your circumstances, you may choose to use one or combine different methods.
- Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP)
PrEP is a daily pill that can prevent HIV infection.
- HIV Testing
Everyone aged 13–64 should be tested for HIV at least once. If you do not know the HIV status of your sex partners or you share injection equipment you should be tested for HIV at least yearly.
- Condoms (CDC)
When used the right way every time, condoms are highly effective in preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).