People with HIV should take medicine to treat HIV as soon as possible. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), HIV medication, when taken as prescribed, can reduce the amount of HIV in the blood (also called viral load). HIV medicine can make the viral load so low that a test can’t detect it. This is defined as having less than 200 copies of HIV per milliliter of blood and is called undetectable viral load. Having an undetectable viral load (or staying virally suppressed*) is the best thing people with HIV can do to stay healthy. If their viral load stays undetectable, they effectively have no risk of transmitting HIV to an HIV-negative partner through sex.
If you have HIV and want to get and keep an undetectable viral load, you will need to
- Take medicine daily as prescribed. Most people can get virally suppressed within 6 months of starting treatment. Missing some doses can increase your viral load and the risk of transmitting HIV. Talk to your health care provider about ways to follow your treatment plan.
- See your provider regularly to check your viral load. Not everyone taking HIV medicine has an undetectable viral load. The only way to know if you have an undetectable viral load is by getting tested regularly.
* It is important to note that an undetectable or fully suppressed viral load only prevents HIV transmission. Condoms help prevent HIV as well as other Sexually Transmitted Infections and pregnancy. The HIV prevention method you choose may be different depending upon your sexual practices and relationships.