Treatment as Prevention (TasP)
What is TasP?
Getting and keeping your HIV under control is the best thing people living with HIV can do to stay healthy. Another benefit of reducing the amount of virus in the body is that it helps prevent transmission to others through sex or needle-sharing, and from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. This is sometimes referred to as “treatment as prevention” or “TasP.”
TasP’s primary purpose is to get those living with HIV to get into medical care, stay treatment adherent, and to encourage those who have dropped out to return to regular care to 1) help prevent the transmission of HIV; and 2) to become healthy, undetectable and untransmittable.
There is now evidence-based confirmation that the risk of HIV transmission from a person living with HIV (PLHIV), who is on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) and has achieved an undetectable viral load in their blood for at least 6 months is negligible to non-existent. (“Negligible” is defined as: so small or unimportant as to be not worth considering; insignificant.) While HIV is not always transmitted even with a detectable viral load, when the partner with HIV has an undetectable viral load this both protects their own health and prevents new HIV transmissions.
However, the majority of PLHIV, medical providers and those potentially at risk of acquiring HIV are not aware of the extent to which successful treatment prevents HIV transmission. Much of the messaging about HIV transmission risk is based on outdated research and is influenced by agency or funding restraints and politics which perpetuate sex-negativity, HIV-related stigma and discrimination.
At the same time, it is important to recognize that many PLHIV may not be in a position to reach an undetectable status because of factors limiting treatment access (e.g., inadequate health systems, poverty, racism, denial, stigma, discrimination, and criminalization), pre-existing ART treatment resulting in resistance or ART toxicities. Some may choose not to be treated or may not be ready to start treatment.
Understanding that successful ART prevents transmission can help reduce HIV-related stigma and encourage PLHIV to initiate and adhere to a successful treatment regimen.
The Houston Health Department’s (HHD) HIV Service Linkage Program is designed to connect people diagnosed with HIV to primary medical care and other support services. The program is structured around your needs and may include the following services:
- Identifying and connecting with medical providers
- Enrolling in programs to help pay for doctor’s visits and medications
- Enrolling in long-term medical case management services
- Connecting with social service organizations providing substance abuse counseling, mental health services, dental care, transportation assistance, food assistance and housing/rental/mortgage/utility assistance