Although the use of Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) continues to make headlines, the use of treatment as prevention (dubbed TasP) is one of the most underrated yet most effective ways to prevent the spread of HIV.
What is TasP?
TasP is when someone who is HIV-positive achieves an undetectable viral load through the use of consistent antiretroviral medication. When a person with HIV has a viral load that is suppressed to undetectable levels, they reduce their risk of transmitting the disease by 96 percent. To date, there has not been one confirmed case of someone with a suppressed viral load who has transmitted HIV.
Study after study, TasP has been proven to work. When evaluated with the added benefits associated with antiretroviral meds, it’s simply the best HIV prevention methods out there. Here's why:
It can have a big impact.
An estimated 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV and 50,000 new infections occur annually. Currently, only 30 percent of people living with HIV are utilizing TasP by being on and adhering to their treatment to maintain a suppressed viral load. TasP users represent a more targeted, at-risk audience who have a greater reason to use this prevention method.
It saves lives.
Not only is TasP on of the most effective and under-utilized form of HIV prevention, but — unlike PrEP, PEP, or even condoms — the use of TasP to prevent HIV has the added benefit of saving an HIV-positive person’s life. Whereas an HIV-negative person doesn't have to take PrEP, a person living with HIV must stay on treatment to remain healthy.
It empowers HIV-positive people.
Unfortunately, the majority of people with HIV aren't in treatment or taking advantage of TasP, due to numerous reasons, including not knowing their status or having access to care. There's also no denying the disempowerment people feel when they are first diagnosed. Promoting the effectiveness and benefits of TasP can show those living with HIV that their treatment is empowering, not just a symbol of stigma.
It reduces HIV stigma and promotes healthy conversation.
It’s difficult to talk about PrEP without getting bogged down into anecdotal discussions about worst-case scenarios and slut-shaming rhetoric. That's because HIV stigma still very much exists. When it comes to PrEP and TasP, one is not better or worse than the other. But when it comes to advocating for PrEP, the inclusion of TasP removes the barrier between HIV-positive and negative people and encourages conversation about shared interests in preventing HIV. The use of TasP, and more importantly, the conversation about TasP can greatly reduce the stigma of living with HIV and promote healthy discussion between sexual partners.
It works. It really works.
TasP doesn’t work only in conjunction with PrEP. It doesn’t work only in conjunction with condoms. It just works. Period. On its own. An HIV-positive person who is using TasP as their HIV prevention method has virtually no risk of transmitting HIV. TasP is the best way for anyone with HIV to protect themselves from transmitting HIV and still have a healthy sex life. Like PrEP, TasP doesn't prevent other STIs . Couples can choose and use whatever additional protective methods they deem necessary. But make no mistake, TasP works. No disclaimers needed.