CDC says Undetectable = Untransmittable

One of the specific data fields on most dating and hook-up site profiles is HIV status. Some of the most common answers to this information field are:

Neg (Negative)
Neg on PrEP
Poz (Positive)
Poz Undetectable

There seems to be some confusion on just what these values mean. Simply put:

  • Neg means the test results returned no indication of the HIV virus in the body;
  • Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) is a medication regime for Neg people, which can reduce their chances of contracting HIV. 
  • Poz means the test results returned positive for the HIV virus in the body. 
  • Poz Undetectable means the HIV virus is present in the body, however the amount of the virus (Viral Load) is so low that the tests cannot detect it.

However, nothing is simple these days and that can be dangerous to the unknowing.

The problem with the Neg designation is the concept of ‘Assumed Negative‘. The definitions above talk about test results, but a very large percentage of our population have not tested recently, if at all. Many people in this category put Neg on their profiles because they assume that they are negative. If a person has an active, multi-partner sex life, they should test at least once every 3 months for STDs and HIV.

The CDC collects massive amounts of data on HIV in the population which is called surveillance data. They regularly publish Surveillance Reports on that data. In 2014, a report stated that: 1 in 5 people living with HIV in the US did NOT know their status. That translates to 20% of the people who had HIV did not know they were Poz because they were not testing. How do you think these people filled out their on-line profiles?

The essence of the CDC’s Prevention Through Care program (instituted 2011) is: If every HIV Positive person is in care and takes their retro-viral medications correctly, their Viral load will be undetectable and they will not be able to pass the virus on to others. This article is an interesting discussion of where we were in HIV prevention was in 2015 and the situation has improved since it was published. We try to keep links to the latest news at the top of this page. 

There is one more point for consideration: Nearly all the people who are undetectable are under care, which includes 3-4 medical check-ups a year. Those check-ups frequently include complete STD/STI screenings as well.

The Social Implications

The Stigma

The Science