Short and Sweet: U=U

Kyan Lynch, MD, MA

What Does U=U Mean?

U=U is an anti-stigma campaign that stands for Undetectable = Untransmittable.

When a person is living with HIV, one of the most important lab values that providers keep track of is the viral load. The viral load tells us how much virus is swimming around the person's blood stream and hanging out in various organs. When the viral load is high, that indicates that the virus is not well controlled. When the viral load is low, that tells us that the anti-HIV medications are working well, and that the body is winning the war against the virus.

Today, anti-HIV medications are so good that it's possible to have an undetectable viral load. This means that there is so little virus hanging around in the body that even our best lab tests can't find any.

When a person has an undetectable viral load, studies show that they cannot transmit the virus through sex! Hence, U=U.

Even though people are more aware of HIV than they were a few decades ago, people living with HIV still face a lot of stigma. One of the ways that this can effect people's lives is during dating. Sometimes, people living with HIV are turned away by potential partners because of their HIV status. Spreading the word about U=U helps combat this stigma because it shows that there is a lot less to be afraid of than people think.

Of course, U=U only applies to HIV. Anti-HIV medications do not lower a person's risk of acquiring or spreading other sexually transmitted infections.

Now that you know what U=U stands for, show off your knowledge and help combat stigma. Use the hashtag #UequalsU when you post on social media, and educate someone else about this awesome campaign!