Bruce Richman left Melbournians encouraged and inspired as he shared his journey with transformative knowledge of what the Undetectable=Untransmittable (U=U) message has done for him and others living with HIV.
HIV community members, allies, researchers and activists packed the Treasury Theatre for the third stop on the U=U speaking tour. Bruce is the Executive Director of Prevention Access Campaign in America and the founder of the U=U movement. His message equipped the audience with the powerful scientific evidence that people living with HIV who are on treatment and maintain an undetectable viral load cannot sexually transmit HIV.
“The number to understand is under 200 copies per millilitre. If your viral load is under that amount, you cannot transmit HIV sexually,” said Bruce. “This is backed by numerous international studies with zero cases of transmission amongst serodiscordant couples using an undetectable viral load as protection.”
“It means we can love freely, we can have sex we want and we can have babies without fear of transmitting HIV or expense.
We have been living and dying with HIV stigma for 35 years. How many people have been lost because of stigma and not because of the virus?”
Living Positive Victoria was the first Australian organisation to sign the U=U consensus statement in February 2017. The U=U message has implications that can change the entire HIV landscape at a personal, community, policy and clinical level. This includes improving the treatment cascade that in turn can reduce HIV stigma and make people less afraid to get tested and stay in care.
Bruce also raised another issue or the ‘third U’ – Unequal. This recognises the economic, social, structural and legal barriers that may make it difficult or impossible for a person to reach an undetectable viral load.
“Not everyone will get to undetectable for whatever reason. There is no shame in having a detectable viral load and everyone living with HIV, regardless of his or her viral load, can have happy healthy sex. Undetectable is just one option.”
“The important thing is to be informed, stay in care and stay on treatment.”
After his presentation, Bruce was joined by panellists Living Positive Victoria President, Christabel Millar, Associate Professor Edwina Wright from Alfred Health and Davey Thompson, The Institute of Many U=U Campaign and answered questions from the audience in a discussion facilitated by Nic Holas, Co-founder of The Institute of Many.
The U=U consensus statement has been endorsed by over 550 organisations and community health organisations in 73 countries and translated into 15 languages.
The U=U speaking tour was presented by Living Positive Victoria, The Institute of Many, DYNAMIX INTERNATIONAL and supported by ICASO. You can watch the ‘In Bed with U=U’ videos here.