It’s time to #SayZero: New WHO guidance on HIV viral suppression and scientific updates released at IAS 2023

While Society for Family Health (SFH) attends the 12th IAS Conference on HIV Science in Brisbane, two words emerge at the launch of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) new guidance on HIV viral suppression and scientific updates on Sunday: “Zero” and “Negligible”. 

These are simpler words that will surely change the HIV response for our communities and have the potential to chart “The Path to End AIDS”. The launch session provides a new policy discussion and highlights innovations in WHO normative work, which recognises that people living with HIV who start treatment early and achieve viral suppression can expect to have the same health & life expectancy as HIV-negative people and don’t transmit the virus via sex. 

“The New WHO guidance and an accompanying Lancet systematic review released describes the role of HIV viral suppression and undetectable levels of virus in both improving individual health and halting onward HIV transmission. The guidance also describes key HIV viral load thresholds and the approaches to measure levels of the virus against these thresholds; for example, people living with HIV who achieve an undetectable level of the virus by consistent use of antiretroviral therapy, do not transmit HIV to their sexual partner(s) and are at low risk of transmitting HIV vertically to their children. The evidence also indicates that there is negligible, or almost zero, risk of transmitting HIV when a person has an HIV viral load measurement of less than or equal to 1000 copies per mL, also commonly referred to as having a suppressed viral load.”

Since the early days of the HIV epidemic, people, inspired with conviction and courage, have struggled against the odds and faced significant risks in pursuit of a more equitable world. Their struggle has evolved into unprecedented national commitment and serves as a beacon of global solidarity. At this pivotal moment in the global response, SFH is committed to leveraging existing and novel partnerships with people, communities, governments, countries, and global champions to support sharing and spreading the news.

It’s time to say the word – #SayZero

In pursuit of social justice and human dignity, we must move decisively from slogan to action. One of the biggest barriers to #UequalsU has been the hesitancy to be clear in messaging, which is addressed now. So, we encourage health professionals and field workers to share the message that there is ZERO risk when HIV is undetectable. We also believe that by taking the right decisions now, we can achieve the global goals of UNAIDS and contribute to the achievement of the SDGs. Let us unite our efforts to ensure success committed to courageously face up to the challenges presented by a new context and embrace wholeheartedly the opportunities to break the trajectory. 

Learn more about this new World Health Organization update and find out what you need to know now.