ALMOST all HIV-positive men who are on treatment—97 per cent—have an undetectable viral load and cannot transmit the virus, according to the results of this year’s Melbourne Gay Community Periodic Survey.

The report demonstrates a growing community confidence in biomedical HIV prevention strategies amongst gay men and other men who have sex with men (MSM).

Over 99 per cent of men living with HIV in the survey reported being on treatment, and over 97 per cent of those men on treatment have an undetectable viral load (UVL), meaning they are not infectious and cannot pass on HIV.

This year’s results also showed the highest ever level of HIV testing, which has increased over time to 90 per cent of men in the survey.

Conducted by the Centre for Social Research in Health at UNSW, the 2017 survey recorded the input of almost 3,000 gay men and other MSM on sex, relationships and sexual health.

The proportion of men using pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) to prevent HIV increased from 6 per cent last year to 16 per cent in 2017, with most obtaining it from a research study.

VAC CEO Simon Ruth said that these findings add momentum to prevention efforts across the community.

“This is further evidence that when it comes to HIV prevention, gay men are at the forefront in protecting themselves and others. When taken consistently, PrEP is proven to be close to 99 per cent effective at preventing HIV,” he said.

“What we need now is for the commonwealth to list PrEP on the pharmaceutical benefits scheme as soon as is possible to ensure all people at risk of HIV can benefit.”

“HIV positive men are playing a substantial role in the low rates of new HIV infections by working to maintain an undetectable viral load,” said Brent Allan, CEO of Living Positive Victoria.

“There is increasing evidence that UVL amongst men living with HIV will be a key factor in the decline of new diagnoses in Australia.”

Almost 90 per cent of HIV positive men who have condomless sex with casual partners reported UVL as their primary risk reduction strategy.

“Biomedical HIV prevention tools mean that safe, condomless sex is possible,” said Ruth.

“However, PrEP and UVL won’t protect people from other STIs, so it’s important that sexually active men test regularly to maintain their sexual health and wellbeing.”

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