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Spokane To Host State HIV Conference This Week

For the first time, the Washington state HIV conference is coming to Spokane. The event will be held Thursday and Friday at the Convention Center.

Among the speakers is the leader of a campaign that promotes the concept that many people with HIV carry such low levels of the virus that they are incapable of passing it on. It’s called Undetectable Equals Untransmittable, or U=U.

For years, HIV and AIDS used to be death sentences for those who contracted them. But Bob Lutz says the drugs and protocols that treat HIV are now so effective that it’s  considered a chronic, but manageable, disease. Lutz is the health officer for the Spokane Regional Health District.

“What people are realizing is that if they are diagnosed and if they are treated and they are having their viral load, which is the amount of virus actually in the blood, if they’re having that monitored and it’s not detectable, then, essentially, their immune systems are strong and these individuals are living good lives and, from a sexual transmission standpoint, they cannot transmit the virus,” Lutz said.

Activist Bruce Richman took that point and ran with it, creating the U=U campaign. The goal is to share the news about what he calls “a groundbreaking, but largely unknown fact.” He’ll speak Friday at the conference.

Also on the meeting’s agenda, an HIV update by Seattle physician Hilary Liss. One of the topics she’s expected to address: why African-Americans are more likely to contract the virus than people in other demographic groups.

HIV and this conference will be topics of Friday’s Inland Journal podcast, available on the SPR website, via iTunes, NPR one or Google Play.