Risk of sexual transmission of HIV in the context of viral load suppression


BACKGROUND: In 2018, the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) published a systematic review to calculate the risk of sexual transmission of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in the context of antiretroviral therapy (ART). In 2022, PHAC commissioned the Canadian Agency for Drugs and Technologies in Health (CADTH) to conduct a rapid review of evidence published since 2017. We undertook a meta-analysis of relevant studies from these two reviews. METHODS: Studies from the rapid review that adequately assessed exposure (HIV viral load) and outcome (HIV seroconversion) were included and assessed for risk of bias (RoB) and certainty of evidence. Results were pooled to estimate the risk of HIV transmission per 100 person-years. RESULTS: Three studies from the rapid review were eligible for inclusion and one was excluded after RoB assessment. In the remaining studies examining risk among people living with HIV who take ART and maintain a suppressed viral load (fewer than 200 copies/mL, measured every 4-6 months), no sexual transmissions of HIV were observed. The pooled incidence estimate based on these studies, and one from the 2018 PHAC review, was zero transmissions/100 person-years (95% CI: 0.00–0.10). No studies in the rapid review provided data on the risk of sexual transmission of HIV in situations of varying levels of viral load. CONCLUSION: This update highlights the consistency of evidence since the 2018 PHAC review. There remains no evidence of HIV transmission to sexual partners when a person living with HIV is on ART and maintains a suppressed viral load.


Djiadeu P, Begum H, Sabourin S, Gadient S, Archibald C, LeBlanc MA, Chittle A, Fleurant A, Cox J




  • Epidemiology and Determinants of Health
    • Epidemiology
  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
  • Prevention, Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Prevention
  • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Treatment
  • Prevention
    • Sexual risk behaviour


Abstract/Full paper

Email 1 selected articles

Email 1 selected articles

Error! The email wasn't sent. Please try again.

Your email has been sent!