Viral load refers to the amount of virus we carry in the blood. The more copies of HIV we have in our blood, the more our chances of developing aids. This amount is measured by the number of copies per milliliter of blood (copies/mL). In general, above 100,000 copies per milliliter of blood is considered high. To avoid this, the doctor gives us antiretrovirals.
These drugs do not exterminate the virus but they impede its multiplication. This prevents damage to our immune system (our body defenses). Adhering to a treatment means complying with it, taking drugs as the doctor tells us to do. This is very important to achieve an undetectable viral load. If our viral load is under 40 or 50 copies per milliliter of blood it is considered undetectable. This does not mean the virus disappeared from our blood, as we said at the beginning, there is no cure yet. If you adhere, your quality of life will be better and you will not develop opportunistic diseases (aids).
If we keep ourselves undetectable, chances of transmitting the virus are practically zero. According to Prevention Access Campaign: by having an undetectable viral load for at least six months and continuing our medication (adherence), we do not put our partners at risk. Having an undetectable viral load is key to stop transmission. We must remember that by being undetectable we are not protected (and we don’t protect our partners) of other sexually transmitted infections or unwanted pregnancies. It is very important that we openly discuss with our partners about our sexual practices, with or without condom, to take the best decision.
If we don’t live with HIV and our partner is undetectable, we can use PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) and/or condom; those are strategies we can use jointly or independently. Some people want to use several preventive strategies for many reasons: reduce anxiety, prevent other STIs, unwanted pregnancies or when our partners are not constant in their treatment.
It is very important to talk with professionals, to look for the most up-to-date information and take the decision best suited to our needs, sex practices and partners. Do not be afraid of exercising our right to a full sexuality. We are getting closer to the goal of a world free from aids. Get more information about the latest technologies so we can have that future sooner.