Delegates at XVII International AIDS Conference Welcome, Challenge Swiss Report on HIV Transmission
Swiss researchers on Sunday at the opening of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City discussed a report finding that some HIV-positive people who take antiretroviral drugs do not transmit the virus during unprotected sex, AFP/Australian Broadcasting Company reports. While the majority of conference delegates gave the presentation a "warm welcome," some challenged the presentation, fearing it could encourage unsafe sex practices, according to AFP/Australian Broadcasting Company (Courcol, AFP/Australian Broadcasting Company, 8/4).
The Swiss AIDS Commission in January released a report based on four studies that said that discordant couples, in which only one partner is HIV-positive, do not need to use condoms to prevent HIV transmission under certain conditions -- if the HIV-positive partner adheres to his or her treatment regimen, has a suppressed HIV viral load for at least six months and does not have any other sexually transmitted infections.
One of the studies -- published in the Swiss Bulletin of Medicine -- was conducted in Spain between 1990 and 2003 among 393 heterosexual couples with an HIV-positive person. The study found that none of the HIV-negative partners contracted the virus from an HIV-positive person taking antiretrovirals. Another study conducted in Brazil found that out of 93 discordant couples, six people became HIV-positive. All six of the new HIV cases in the Brazil study were attributed to the HIV-positive partners not using ARVs. The two other studies -- one conducted in Uganda and the other conducted among pregnant women -- had similar results (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 1/31).
At the event Sunday, Rolande Hodel, head of AIDSfreeAfrica, said the "message" of the Swiss report is "too broad," adding, "People will think it's OK not to use condoms anymore." Nancy Padian of the University of North Carolina said the report has "limited applicability" in low-income countries and "a large potential for doing more harm than good." Nikos Dedes of the European AIDS Treatment Group said the report "lifts the fear of being a threat to partners" (AFP/Australian Broadcasting Company, 8/4).
An abstract of the report is available online.