Purpose of review
To examine recent literature on the efficacy and effectiveness of HIV treatment in preventing HIV transmission through sexual exposure, at both an individual and at a population level.
Two recent studies on the individual-level efficacy of treatment as prevention (TasP) have added to the now conclusive evidence that HIV cannot be transmitted sexually when the virus is suppressed. However, four large cluster-randomized population-level trials on universal HIV testing and treatment in Africa have not delivered the expected impact in reducing HIV incidence at a population level. Two of these trials showed no differences in HIV incidence between the intervention and control arms, one demonstrated a nonsignificant lower incidence in the intervention arm, and the fourth trial found a reduction between the communities receiving a combination prevention package and the control arm, but no difference between the immediate treatment plus the prevention package and the control arm. Factors contributing to the disconnect between individual high-level efficacy and population-level effectiveness of TasP include undiagnosed infection, delays in linkage to care, challenges in retention and adherence to antiretroviral therapy (ART), time between ART initiation and viral suppression
, and stigma and discrimination.
Suppressive ART renders people living with HIV sexually noninfectious. However, epidemic control is unlikely to be achieved by TasP alone.