Drug Therapy Reduces HIV Transmission in Couples Regardless of Condom Use or Safe-Sex Practices

February 11, 2009

(PhysOrg.com) -- Antiretroviral drug therapy in an HIV-positive man or women can alone help prevent the transmission of HIV to an uninfected partner, regardless of counseling, the patient’s use of condoms or other safe-sex practices, AIDS experts at Johns Hopkins report.

In a study among 205 so-called discordant couples in Uganda, in which only one member of each heterosexual pair was infected with HIV, researchers found that not a single case of transmission from one partner to the other occurred when the infected man or women was taking potent anti-HIV medications to keep the disease in check.

By contrast, 34 men and women became infected among the 185 remaining couples in which neither partner was taking antiretroviral therapy. The study group pairs consisted of 126 HIV-positive men and 79 HIV-positive women.

The experts caution that drug therapy should not be considered a fail-safe strategy in such couples and that condom use and safe-sex practices are still vitally important. But the results, they say, show that the drugs significantly help lower the risk of transmission.

According to lead study investigator and infectious diseases specialist Steven Reynolds, M.D., M.P.H., the study results show that antiretroviral therapy not only “treats the HIV-infected member of a discordant couple,” but also plays some role in preventing the virus from spreading.

However, he cautions that its preventive role is limited because of the advanced stage of disease in those being treated in his study group. In Uganda, as in most countries, infected people usually do not qualify for government-funded antiretroviral therapies until the disease has reached an advanced stage, with a CD4 immune system cell count of 200 or less.

Reynolds, an assistant professor at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and a staff clinician at the U.S. National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, says study results showed that HIV transmission in the treated couples was prevented despite the failure of counseling to halt unsafe sex practices, such as extramarital sex or failure to use condoms.

Participants in the study, conducted jointly by Johns Hopkins and Rakai Health Sciences Program researchers between 2004 and 2007, came from the Rakai cohort, a population of 12,000 people in Uganda who are being monitored to determine how HIV spreads throughout the country. The researchers based their findings on extensive interviews with each participant and an annual check-up during which blood tests were conducted.

Antiretroviral therapy reduced the rate of sexual transmission of HIV among HIV discordant couples in rural Rakai, Uganda, by Steven Reynolds, Frederick Makumbi, Joseph Kagaayi, Gertrude Nakigozi, Ronald Galiwongo, Thomas Quinn, Maria Wawer, Ronald Gray and David Serwadda.

Provided by Johns Hopkins University

Explore further: Important new insights into RECIST criteria measuring cancer's response to treatment

Related Stories

Important new insights into RECIST criteria measuring cancer's response to treatment

November 6, 2017
Oncologists and researchers use a measurement known as Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumors (RECIST) to evaluate the degree to which a patient's cancer responds to treatment during clinical trials. The tool is key ...

Study shows cell signaling interaction may prevent key step in lung cancer progression

November 9, 2017
New findings from University of Kentucky faculty published in Scientific Reports reveals a novel cell signaling interaction that may prevent a key step in lung cancer progression.

Drug targeting could aid immune diseases

September 25, 2017
A new technique that targets drugs to specific cells could lead to improved therapies for diseases caused by an overactive immune response. The approach could help people affected by conditions such as arthritis and inflammatory ...

Gene therapy helps boys with 'Lorenzo's Oil' disease

October 4, 2017
The fledgling field of gene therapy has scored another win: An experimental treatment seemed to help boys with the inherited nerve disease featured in the movie "Lorenzo's Oil."

Comparing cancer drug effectiveness from cells to mice to man

September 6, 2017
Science is very good at determining how drugs work in experimental models. New research out of Dartmouth's Norris Cotton Cancer Center led by Alan Eastman, PhD, helps to bridge the gap when it comes to ensuring that drugs ...

Seeing hope: FDA panel considers gene therapy for blindness (Update)

October 9, 2017
A girl saw her mother's face for the first time. A boy tore through the aisles of Target, marveling at toys he never knew existed. A teen walked onto a stage and watched the stunned expressions of celebrity judges as he wowed ...

Recommended for you

Scientists find where HIV 'hides' to evade detection by the immune system

October 19, 2017
In a decades-long game of hide and seek, scientists from Sydney's Westmead Institute for Medical Research have confirmed for the very first time the specific immune memory T-cells where infectious HIV 'hides' in the human ...

National roll-out of PrEP HIV prevention drug would be cost-effective

October 18, 2017
Providing pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medication to men who have sex with men who are at high risk of HIV infection (equivalent to less than 5% of men who have sex with men at any point in time) in England would be cost-effective, ...

Regulatory T cells harbor HIV/SIV virus during antiviral drug treatment

October 17, 2017
Scientists at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, Emory University have identified an additional part of the HIV reservoir, immune cells that survive and harbor the virus despite long-term treatment with antiviral drugs.

New research opens the door to 'functional cure' for HIV

October 17, 2017
In findings that open the door to a completely different approach to curing HIV infections, scientists from the Florida campus of The Scripps Research Institute (TSRI) have for the first time shown that a novel compound effectively ...

Researchers create molecule that could 'kick and kill' HIV

October 5, 2017
Current anti-AIDS drugs are highly effective at making HIV undetectable and allowing people with the virus to live longer, healthier lives. The treatments, a class of medications called antiretroviral therapy, also greatly ...

A sixth of new HIV patients in Europe 50 or older: study

September 27, 2017
People aged 50 and older comprise a growing percentage of HIV patients in Europe, accounting for one in six new cases in 2015, researchers said Wednesday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.