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Undetectable… do I still have HIV?

Dr. Demetre: If I’m undetectable does that mean that I don’t have HIV anymore? You have some questions? We know HIV.
Dr. David: I’m a doctor. I’m trained for this.
Dr. Leandro: We’re gonna give you what you need.
Dr. Demetre: There is no cure for HIV. I wish I could look in the camera to you and say that there is, but there’s not. What we do have are fantastic HIV medicines and even more fantastic people who are taking them, who stay on them, and get their virus very low in their body. That’s what undetectable means. It means that it’s suppressed. The way I like to tell my patients about this is, we can suppress or turn the virus down so low that you can’t find it in their blood. That doesn’t mean that it’s not in their bodies. It’s just that the meds are doing a really – actually you’re doing a really good job by taking the meds every day, preventing the virus from getting in your blood. So, being undetectable means that you’re going to stay healthy, it means that you’re not going to transmit HIV, but it doesn’t mean that HIV is gone. It’s still there, it’s just hiding, and should stay that way, because the meds keep it down.

You found out that you’re undetectable – nice! But wait, what does that mean? Dr. Demetre breaks down what’s going on inside of the body when a person living with HIV is “undetectable”.

When you’re undetectable it means the amount of virus in the blood (viral load) is so low that standard lab tests cannot detect it. The vast majority of individuals with HIV who take their Antiretroviral medications (ARVs) as prescribed and remain in care are able to achieve an undetectable viral load.

Click here to learn more about HIV treatment as prevention.


#AskTheHIVDoc is a video series from Greater Than HIV featuring top HIV doctors providing answers to commonly-asked questions about HIV prevention, testing and treatment.

This information is shared for educational purposes only and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. The views expressed are those of the featured medical professional and reflect information available to that professional at time of filming. Always consult a health care provider for any personal health decision.

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