A Major Factor Affecting Risk Of Sexually Transmitting HIV Is Viral Load; Condom Use Significantly Reduces Risk
The level of HIV-1 in the blood of an HIV-infected partner is the single most important factor influencing risk of sexual transmission to an uninfected partner, according to a multinational study of heterosexual couples in sub-Saharan Africa.
The study, published in the Journal of Infectious Diseases, calculated the risk of HIV-1 transmission per act of sexual intercourse and found the average rate of infection to be about 1 per 900 coital acts. The findings also confirmed that condoms are highly protective and reduce HIV infectivity by 78 percent.
James P. Hughes, PhD, and colleagues conducted a study that included 3,297 HIV-discordant couples (where one person is HIV-infected, and the other is not) in eastern and southern Africa who were enrolled in a randomized trial of acyclovir suppressive therapy. The couples had frequent follow-up to measure plasma HIV-1 RNA in the infected partner and genetic testing to link the transmitted virus to the index HIV-infected partner, to prevent inclusion of infections acquired from other possible partners. HIV acquisition was not affected by the acyclovir therapy.
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