A GROUND-BREAKING study by United Kingdom researchers, Partners of People on ART (PARTNER), has revealed that HIV-positive people can have unprotected sex with their partners on antiretroviral treatment (ART) and still not transmit the virus.
The findings are likely to cause great relief in developing countries like Zimbabwe, where new infections are still a burden, particularly among young people.
The study, conducted in 14 European countries, included 888 couples where one partner was HIV positive and the other was HIV negative.
Senior study author Jens Lundgren, head of the Centre for Health and Infectious Diseases in Copenhagen, said: “The results clearly show that early diagnosis of HIV and access to effective treatment is crucial for reducing the number of new HIV cases. As soon as a patient with HIV is on treatment with a suppressed viral load, the risk of transmission becomes minimal.”
Zimbabwe’s Health minister David Parirenyatwa has emphasised the need to make ART one of the effective preventive methods in the fight against HIV and Aids.
Of concern is the fact that HIV has been fingered as a key driver for tuberculosis (TB), a serious public health problem.
“In 2014, 68% of notified TB cases were co-infected with HIV. TB has high morbidity and mortality rates,” Parirenyatwa said.
Head of the Aids and TB department in the Ministry of Health, Owen Mugurungi, said HIV made detection of TB difficult.
“There is need to effectively deal with HIV and TB as the two are closely linked,” he said
HIV and Aids are still a huge challenge for the country, even though the prevalence rate has come down from an all-time high of 29,3% to a modest 14,7%.
Many people, however, are still battling to access ARVs and with the dwindling funding there is great need for additional funding from the country’s local and global benefactors.
Meanwhile, researchers and policymakers attending the International Aids Conference in Durban, South Africa, this week are pushing for an Aids cure instead of the current treatment strategies, which are presenting serious limitations.
In what could be a breakthrough in finding a cure for the disease, the experts will use the platform to explore research findings on the remedy for Aids which has infected nearly 37 million people globally.