What does undetectable mean?

Your viral load test shows how much HIV there is in a small sample of your blood. With effective HIV treatment, your viral load will start to decrease over time. When your viral load is below 200 copies/ml, you may get viral load test results back, saying ‘undetectable’. This means the amount of virus in your sample was too little to be measured by the tests.

Depending on where you live and the test used, your results may be reported as “<200”, “<50”, “target not detected”, “ND”, “zero”, “below the undetectable limit” or “negative”. All of these terms mean your viral load is undetectable.

Undetectable viral load does not mean you are cured, or you can stop taking your HIV medication. There is still HIV in your body, but there is very little virus in your bloodstream and body fluids.

Undetectable viral load shows that HIV treatment is working. People who have an undetectable viral load are unlikely to get ill due to HIV, have better long-term health and longer life expectancy than those who don’t. Click here for more information on viral load and HIV treatment.

Studies show undetectable viral load means zero risk of HIV transmission between sexual partners. With very little to no HIV in body fluids, people with HIV who have sustained an undetectable viral load for at least six months cannot pass HIV to their partners, even with no condom use. Click here for more on Undetectable = Untransmittable.

Having an undetectable viral load also reduces the risk of passing HIV on during and after pregnancy. Continuing your HIV treatment and sustaining an undetectable viral load drastically reduces the amount of HIV in the breast milk, but may not remove it entirely. Click here for more information on pregnancy and breastfeeding.

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