New study led by Jens Lundgren shows zero risk of transmission for those HIV positive in treatment

22. August 2018

DNRF head of center Jens Lundgren, from the Center for Personalized Medicine Managing Infectious Complications in Immune Deficiency (PERSIMUNE) at Rigshospitalet, is one of the leading researchers behind an international HIV study called PARTNER2. The study recently created headlines, since it reports that there is zero risk of transmitting the virus for HIV positive people in treatment.

Since the 1980s, the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has led to an HIV/AIDS pandemic and, with it, an increased fear of transmission. But according to new research results from the so-called PARTNER2 study led by DNRF head of center Jens Lundgren from PERSIMUNE, there is no need to worry about transmission as long as HIV-positive persons are undergoing antiretroviral therapy (ART).

“We can now clearly and with an absolute certainty determine that well-treated HIV-positive persons do not transmit the virus to others,” said Professor Lundgren to the Danish newspaper Politiken.

The PARTNER2 study is part of CHIP, which is an international research collaboration run by Region Hovedstaden and Rigshospitalet, Denmark, and led by Professor Lundgren from PERSIMUNE.

PARTNER2 is the first large-scale study to specifically examine transmission risk in condom-less anal intercourse among homosexual men. A total of 74,567 instances of intercourse were reported from 1000 gay male couples between 2010 and 2018 in which one partner was HIV positive and in effective treatment. The results showed not a single incident of transmission between the partners.

“Unprotected anal sex is the riskiest sexual behavior when it comes to HIV transmission. If the HIV-treatment were not fully protective, some of the HIV-negative individuals in the period of testing should have had the virus transmitted by their partner. But that did not happen,” said Lundgren.

According to AIDS-Fondet (a Danish AIDS NGO), the study is momentous because of its large scale and the solid results.

“The study is a milestone and a sign of liberty to everyone with HIV. They can now live just as normal a life as everyone else, if only they take their daily medicine. Neither the HIV-positive, their partners, or anyone else should fear transmission,” said Andreas Gylling Æbelø, director of AIDS-Fondet.

PARTNER2 was an extension of the earlier PARTNER1 study, which also found zero transmissions in a study population where 65% of the couples were heterosexual.

The results from PARTNER2 are an important step toward the global goal of ending AIDS by 2030.

Approximately 36.7 million people around the world are HIV positive, and about 19.4 million HIV-positive people live in Southeast Africa, making it the largest HIV area, followed by Asia and the Pacific Rim countries, where 5.1 million people have the virus. Eastern Europe and Central Asia are suffering from an epidemic whereby the number of infected people is continuously growing. According to the Statens Serum Institute, around 6,200 people in Denmark are living with HIV.

Read more about the research at CHIP here

Read the article at the newspaper Politiken.dk here (Danish)

A comment on the research from the ECDC can be found here