Reuters (02.17.10) - Thursday, February 18, 2010
HIV patients on antiretroviral therapy are less likely to
transmit the virus to their seronegative partners, according
to new research presented Wednesday in San Francisco at the
17th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections.
The news could boost efforts to provide ARVs for patients in
developing countries, and it adds to the debate over how
billions of dollars are spent on global HIV treatment and
Dr. Deborah Donnell, affiliated with the Fred Hutchinson
Cancer Research Center in Seattle, and colleagues closely
followed 3,400 serodiscordant couples in seven African
countries for the study. All couples were counseled on
prevention and given free condoms. The HIV-infected partners
were put on ARVs when their immune system CD4 cell counts
reached a predefined level.
Over the next three years, 103 previously uninfected partners
seroconverted. Of those transmissions, 102 occurred before the
HIV-positive partner had been placed on ARVs, Donnell said.
"Only one happened when the partner was on antiretroviral
therapy," said Donnell. "That amounts to a final reduction of
92 percent when on antiretroviral therapy."
The couples were tested every few months, and researchers
could determine whether the partner who seroconverted acquired
the virus from someone outside of the primary partnership.
"We think it is very likely that antiretroviral treatment is
going to reduce the risk of HIV transmission," Donnell said.
"Our data will be informative for policymakers."