5 Reasons Why TasP is the Best HIV Prevention Method
By Tyler Curry
Although the use of Truvada as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) continues to make headlines, the use of antiretroviral medication as treatment as prevention (TasP) is one of the most underrated yet most effective ways to prevent the spread of HIV.
What is TasP, you say? Here are the basics.
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 at 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.
Frankly, TasP works well and, when evaluated along with the other benefits associated with antiretroviral meds, it’s simply one of the best HIV prevention methods out there. Here are five reasons why.
Smaller audience, bigger impact.
An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV. Although new infection does occur frequently, those who are HIV-positive represent a more controlled group when it comes to advocating for safer sex and prevention. However, only 30 percent of people living with HIV are utilizing TasP by staying consistent with their treatment and maintaining a suppressed viral load. Plainly, TasP users represent a more targeted, at-risk audience who have a greater reason to use this prevention method.
The added benefit of saving your life.
Not only is TasP one of the most effective and under-utilized form of HIV prevention among the majority of people with HIV, but it also has one particular added benefit that makes it stand out from the rest. 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 can elect to use PrEP, a person with HIV must stay on treatment in order to maintain their health. Make no mistake, PrEP is a fabulous and highly effective form of prevention, but when it comes to the life-saving benefits of TasP, it’s all the more reason for the user to take advantage of this prevention tool.
It empowers HIV-positive people.
The majority of people with HIV are not seeking and maintaining treatment for their disease and therefore aren't taking advantage of TasP. Although there are multiple reasons why the majority of HIV-positive folks are not getting the treatment they need, (including that many don't know their status) it can also be attributed to the lack of empowerment people feel when they are first diagnosed. By educating both HIV-negative and positive people about the effectiveness and benefits of TasP, those living with HIV can be empowered by their treatment instead of viewing it as a symbol of stigma.
It reduces HIV stigma and promotes healthy conversation.
If it’s difficult to talk about PrEP without getting bogged down into anecdotal discussions about worst-case scenarios and slut-shaming rhetoric, then talking about TasP is usually a non-starter. That's because the 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 in conjunction with PrEP. It doesn’t work in conjunction with condoms. It just works, period.
A 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 transmission and to have a healthy sex life. Like PrEP, TasP does not prevent against other STIs and the person using TasP can choose to use additional prevention methods if he or she finds them necessarily.
But make no mistake, TasP works. No disclaimers needed.