A newer study found – and backed – the already-established fact that there is a negligible risk of transmitting HIV during sex when a person living with HIV is on antiretroviral therapy and maintains a viral load under a specific threshold. In “Risk of sexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus with antiretroviral therapy, suppressed viral load and condom use: a systematic review”, published in CMAJ (Canadian Medical Association Journal), the Public Health Agency of Canada conducted a systematic review that relied on 11 studies and one previously published review to determine the absolute risk of HIV transmission when preventive measures are in place.
“Our findings show that there is a negligible risk of sexually transmitting HIV when an HIV-positive sex partner adheres to antiretroviral therapy and maintains a suppressed viral load of less than 200 copies/mL on consecutive measurements every four to six months. The risk of sexual HIV transmission is low when an HIV-positive sex partner is taking antiretroviral therapy without a suppressed viral load of less than 200 copies/mL, condoms are used or both,” the researchers – which included Rachel Rodin from the Centre for Communicable Diseases and Infection Control, Public Health Agency of Canada – stated.
The findings are of particular relevance, according to the researchers, in the drafting of laws.
In Canada, for instance, based on the findings of this study, as well as relevant case law and other factors, the Department of Justice Canada concluded that “the criminal law should not apply to people living with HIV who maintain a suppressed viral load of less than 200 copies/mL.”
Justice Canada also concluded that the criminal law should generally not apply to those who use condoms, among others.
Previous studies found that antiretroviral therapy and condoms can reduce HIV transmission. This study includes evidence from newer studies that have influenced clinical practice and could affect criminal law.