Studies Examine ‘Creative’ Uses of Antiretrovirals Aimed at Preventing HIV Transmission, San Francisco Chronicle Reports
Researchers attending the 15th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections in Boston this week "could take heart" in several studies that found that "creative" uses of antiretroviral drugs might prevent transmission of the virus, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
One study released at the conference that was conducted by CDC in Uganda during a three-year period found that the risk of HIV transmission decreased by 90% among discordant married couples -- in which one person is HIV-positive and the other is HIV-negative -- if the HIV-positive person took antiretrovirals. According to the Chronicle, the study's findings support the theory that the risk of transmitting HIV decreases among HIV-positive people taking antiretrovirals because their viral loads decrease. The purpose of the study was to determine whether potentially risky sexual behaviors increased among discordant couples if the HIV-positive person was taking antiretrovirals. The study found that the risk of unprotected sex did increase slightly but that antiretrovirals provided significant protection against HIV transmission. One HIV-negative spouse contracted the virus during the study.
Another study released at the conference conducted in rural Uganda found that an HIV testing program that utilized volunteers to conduct door-to-door testing "radically" increased the number of couples who received an HIV test. Almost 80% of the 220,000 people offered an HIV test during the study received one, and 4% were found to be HIV-positive. In addition, the study found 866 discordant couples. According to the Chronicle, earlier studies have found that risky sex decreases by 80% when discordant couples learn their HIV status.
In addition, another study released at the conference found that HIV-positive women who take antiretrovirals at the end of pregnancy and for six months after their infants' births while breastfeeding decrease the risk of vertical transmission. However, the study did raise a concern of future drug resistance among the women if they were not ill enough to need antiretrovirals while they were pregnant or breastfeeding, the Chronicle reports (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 2/7).