History and Context
Launched during the International AIDS Conference in 2020, the U=U; Not Without Women movement was created as a response to informational disparity surrounding the U=U science (hyper link to U=U page) to include women. Much like the history of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP), while men who have sex with men (MSM), members of the LGBTQIA+ community, and people who work in the sex industry, were adequately studied and represented during the development of this life-saving medication, by and large women were entirely ignored and neglected in these conversations. Juxtaposed to this realization was the reality that rates of new infection remain steady in all of the populations listed above, with the exception of women. The rate of new HIV infection in women has seen continuous increase, which is both counter-intuitive given the positive outcomes in other populations as well as the efficacy of both pre and post exposure prophylaxis.
Additionally, the science that supports U=U as it relates to sexual intercourse is proven within transmission rates studied in Undetectable mothers and birthing parents who make the choice to breast or body feed their child. Studies indicate that in populations where the rates of HIV+ mothers and birthing parents are the highest, other factors that contribute to infant mortality are also much higher (i.e Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, SIDS and Necrotizing Enterocolitis). It has been proven that “breast is best” time and time again, and as it relates to infant health and long-term outcomes, particularly in children born from people living with HIV (PLWH) the data aligns with common wisdom surrounding the benefits of breastfeeding.
In this frightening landscape, where the entire world is in the midst of a global pandemic that threatens to re-emerge with a vengeance, new studies indicate that infants receiving breastmilk from mothers and birthing parents aids in the development of antibodies, protecting our babies who currently can not be vaccinated from the Novel Coronavirus, a measure that any parent should be allowed to implement for the safety and health of their child.
While the science is widely accepted internationally, the United States remains on the wrong side of science and data concerning women living with HIV (WLH). It is high time that we use our collective voices to make a change and stand both on the right side of history as well as with the proven science that will afford all of us the ability to one day entirely eradicate the HIV/AIDS epidemic! Please join us in furthering the reach and scope of this invaluable effort, by signing-on (link to sign-on letter) to our formal statement of action.