What is safe sex now? Does it include undetectable viral load and PrEP?

As part of the Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival in Sydney last week, an Australian researcher asked whether people’s ideas of what makes up ‘safe sex’ are changing. An undetectable viral load and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) provide new ways to safely avoid HIV, but research suggests that most people continue to equate safe sex with condom use, and to see not using condoms as ‘unsafe sex’.

Although more and more HIV-negative gay men know about the impact of HIV treatment on infectiousness, many of these men remain unwilling to have sex with HIV-positive men. “Growing awareness of treatment as prevention does not necessarily translate into comfort or confidence in having sex with positive men,” Martin Holt of the University of New South Wales said.

PrEP users sometimes face stigma and sexual rejection too.

He praised a new Australian campaign which presents condoms, PrEP and undetectable viral load alongside each other. No one strategy is presented as superior to the others. Men are encouraged to choose the strategy that is right for them and to respect the choices that other men make.