Reflections on the Swiss Consensus Statement in the context of qualitative interviews with heterosexuals living with HIV

AIDS Care. 2010 Dec;22(12):1487-92. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2010.482122.


In 2008, the Swiss Federal AIDS Commission released a statement concluding that people with HIV who are on treatment and have an undetectable viral load are non-infectious and can safely practice unprotected sex with their HIV-negative partner under certain conditions. Contradicting over 25 years of HIV prevention messages, the so called Swiss Consensus Statement sparked a polarised international debate. One key concern is that the Statement will be misinterpreted to imply that everybody on treatment can have unprotected sex. Therefore, critics warn against any departure from the emphasis on condoms as the most effective prevention method. Given this concern, it is useful to reflect on what relevance the Swiss Statement may have for those concerned. This paper draws on qualitative interviews with HIV-positive heterosexuals and HIV-negative partners in Australia. Conducted both before and after the release of the Statement, these interviews revealed that sexual decision-making was not based solely on calculations of risk, but shaped by complex emotions and relationship priorities. The interviews also revealed that participants were sceptical towards the Statement's prevention message. These findings call into question the central concerns that drive this debate.

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Australia
  • Cohort Studies
  • Condoms / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / prevention & control
  • HIV Infections / transmission*
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice*
  • Heterosexuality / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Qualitative Research
  • Quality of Life / psychology
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sexual Behavior / psychology*
  • Switzerland


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents