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The "Undetectable = Untransmittable" campaign indicates that persons living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) who maintain a suppressed viral load cannot sexually transmit the virus. However, there is little knowledge of the percent of individuals at a population level who sustain viral suppression long term. The aims of this study were to: (1) establish a baseline of persons living with diagnosed HIV who resided in New York and had consecutive suppressed viral load tests; (2) describe the risk of virologic failure among those who were consecutively suppressed; and (3) gain an understanding of the length of time between consecutive viral suppression to virologic failure. A total of 102,339 New Yorkers aged 13-90 years were living with diagnosed HIV at the beginning of 2012; 47.9% were consecutively suppressed (last two HIV viral load test results from 2010-2011 that were < 420 days apart and < 200 copies/mL). Of consecutively suppressed individuals, 54.3% maintained viral suppression for the entire study period and 33.6% experienced virologic failure during the study period. Among persons who experienced virologic failure, 82.6% did so six or more months after being consecutively suppressed. Our findings support the need for ongoing viral load monitoring, adherence support, and ongoing risk reduction messaging to prevent forward HIV transmission.


Jayleen K L Gunn, Wendy Patterson, Bridget J Anderson, Carol-Ann Swain. Understanding the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) Virologic Failure in the Era of Undetectable Equals Untransmittable. AIDS and behavior. 2021 Jul;25(7):2259-2265

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PMID: 33439374

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