Antiretroviral therapy does not eliminate the risk of HIV transmission
Many people with HIV take highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in order to curb their risk of passing the virus on to a sexual partner. However, these individuals should still be sure to use a condom during intercourse, as a new study reveals that HAART is not fully effective at preventing the spread of HIV.
Researchers at Boston University School of Medicine and Fenway Health examined blood and semen samples from 101 HIV-positive men who have sex with men (MSM) who were on HAART. They discovered that 18 percent still have HIV in their blood despite the treatment, and half were found to have the virus present in their semen.
Additionally, the scientists noted that men with HIV in their semen were more likely to have unprotected sex, other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) and genital inflammation when compared to subjects whose samples did not contain the virus.
"Our study provides evidence that genital infections and inflammation are common in HIV-infected MSM that engage in unprotected intercourse, and that these factors can promote HIV in the genital tract of men on suppressive HAART therapy even when HIV is not detectable in blood," said lead author Joseph Politch, Ph.D.
The researchers said that future studies should single out newer forms of HAART, as these have been shown to have greater efficacy than their predecessors.
It's estimated that 33.3 million people across the globe have HIV or AIDS, resulting in about 1.8 million deaths annually. Additionally, about 2.6 million new infections are reported each year, with unprotected sex being named as the main cause. MSM tend to have a higher rate of HIV infection when compared to the general population.