It’s not just a slogan, it’s science. So how can we better communicate about U=U?

Undetectable equals untransmittable. These three words have so much impact for people living with HIV, including myself. The science is there. So why does it still feel like I have to explain myself over and over?

According to CBRC’s Sex Now study, knowledge of U=U among gay, bisexual, queer, and trans men and Two-Spirit and non-binary (2S/GBTQ) people has actually increased in recent years. This is good! However, gaps in knowledge still exist, especially among some HIV-negative folks who are not on PrEP. This highlights that we’ve got more work to do. At the end of the day, U=U should be known by everyone regardless of HIV status, gender, race, age – everyone!

UU_Landing_Page_EN.pngLearn more about U=U, including through videos and additional resources

At the beginning of the year, I had the pleasure of working with CBRC to conduct some consultations with 2S/GBTQ community members living with HIV about their perspectives on U=U. One thing was clear: U=U is improving the lives of many people living with HIV. Whether it be their social life or sexual life, many participants reported major benefits from U=U messaging. Personally, U=U has helped me in reducing worry when it comes to sexual encounters and has made me a more confident person when it comes to owning my status.

However, HIV stigma continues. Whether it be from friends, family, health care professionals, or even encounters through dating/hookup apps, stigma is ever-present and remains a major barrier to many of us living with HIV. While stigma has many causes, like stereotyping or a lack of knowledge, many 2SLGBTQ+ people (especially HIV-negative folks) still don't know enough about U=U.

Our consultations with community members across Canada highlighted the importance of ongoing U=U messaging that is interactive and engaging. Many described social media as the way to go, especially with apps like TikTok skyrocketing into the mainstream during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The need for additional U=U education was also discussed. We need to be sharing knowledge about U=U in school systems, on the streets, and at bars, baths, and clinics. We also need to make sure medical professionals are educated about U=U so they can help get the word out.

Lastly, we need to keep in mind how we choose to share U=U knowledge in tailored and culturally-appropriate ways. In short, we must take time to understand how our diverse communities prefer to receive knowledge in ways that resonate with their lives. For example, taking into consideration the languages that are represented, the vocabulary used, whether knowledge is being communicated through text or visual aids, and which community members’ voices are being centred in our campaigns. We need to meet people where they're at to put the “you” in U=U and maximize the benefits of this message for all 2S/GBTQ people.

By Alex Tran

Disponible en français.


About CBRC

Community-Based Research Centre (CBRC) promotes the health of people of diverse sexualities and genders through research and intervention development.
It’s not just a slogan, it’s science. So how can we better communicate about U=U?
It’s not just a slogan, it’s science. So how can we better communicate about U=U?
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