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1.  The Effect of Raltegravir Intensification on Low-level Residual Viremia in HIV-Infected Patients on Antiretroviral Therapy: A Randomized Controlled Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(8):e1000321.
In a double-blind trial, Rajesh Gandhi and colleagues detect no significant reduction in viral load after people with low-level HIV viremia added an integrase inhibitor to their treatment regimen.
Background
Most HIV-1-infected patients on effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) with plasma HIV-1 RNA levels below the detection limits of commercial assays have residual viremia measurable by more sensitive methods. We assessed whether adding raltegravir lowered the level of residual viremia in such patients.
Methods and Findings
Patients receiving ART who had plasma HIV-1 RNA levels below 50 copies/mL but detectable viremia by single copy assay (SCA) were randomized to add either raltegravir or placebo to their ART regimen for 12 weeks; patients then crossed-over to the other therapy for an additional 12 weeks while continuing pre-study ART. The primary endpoint was the plasma HIV-1 RNA by SCA averaged between weeks 10 and 12 (10/12) compared between treatment groups. Fifty-three patients were enrolled. The median screening HIV-1 RNA was 1.7 copies/mL. The HIV-1 RNA level at weeks 10/12 did not differ significantly between the raltegravir-intensified (n = 25) and the placebo (n = 24) groups (median 1.2 versus 1.7 copies/mL, p = 0.55, Wilcoxon rank sum test), nor did the change in HIV-1 RNA level from baseline to week 10/12 (median −0.2 and −0.1 copies/mL, p = 0.71, Wilcoxon rank sum test). There was also no significant change in HIV-1 RNA level from weeks 10/12 to weeks 22/24 after patients crossed-over. There was a greater CD4 cell count increase from baseline to week 12 in the raltegravir-intensified group compared with the placebo group (+42 versus −44 cells/mm3, p = 0.082, Wilcoxon rank sum test), which reversed after the cross-over. This CD4 cell count change was not associated with an effect of raltegravir intensification on markers of CD4 or CD8 cell activation in blood.
Conclusion
In this randomized, double-blind cross-over study, 12 weeks of raltegravir intensification did not demonstrably reduce low-level plasma viremia in patients on currently recommended ART. This finding suggests that residual viremia does not arise from ongoing cycles of HIV-1 replication and infection of new cells. New therapeutic strategies to eliminate reservoirs that produce residual viremia will be required to eradicate HIV-1 infection.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00515827
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed about 25 million people since 1981 and more than 30 million people are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. HIV is a retrovirus—its genetic blueprint is made of ribonucleic acid (RNA). HIV infects human immune system cells and destroys them, leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early during the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-positive people died within ten years of infection. Then, in 1996, effective antiretroviral therapy (ART) was developed. ART consists of combinations of drugs that prevent viral replication by inhibiting essential viral enzymes such as reverse transcriptase (the enzyme that makes a DNA copy of the viral RNA; a viral enzyme called integrase inserts this DNA copy into the host cell DNA where it remains dormant until the host cell is activated) and protease (an enzyme needed for the production of new viral particles, which are released into the blood stream). Now, in industrialized countries, the life expectancy of HIV-infected patients treated with ART is similar to that of people with diabetes and other chronic conditions.
Why Was This Study Done?
Although ART can reduce the number of viral RNA copies in the plasma (the liquid portion of blood) of HIV-positive patients to less than 50 copies/mL (the limit of detection of commercial assays), it is does not eradicate HIV. When very sensitive assays are used to detect viral RNA (for example, the “single copy assay” or SCA), most patients on ART have one copy or more of HIV RNA per mL of plasma. The origin of this low-level residual viremia (virus in the blood) is controversial. Residual viremia could arise from ongoing cycles of viral replication, in which case intensification of ART should reduce it. Alternatively, residual viremia could be due to HIV release from stable reservoirs such as latently infected resting immune system cells, in which case intensification of ART should have no effect on residual viremia. In this randomized, controlled trial (a study in which randomly selected groups of patients are given different treatments and the effects of these treatments compared), the researchers assess whether the addition of raltegravir (a drug that inhibits HIV integrase) to standard ART has any effect on residual viremia.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers enrolled 53 HIV-positive patients who had been receiving ART containing several reverse transcriptase inhibitors and, in some cases, a protease inhibitor for at least 12 months and who had a plasma HIV RNA level below 50 copies/mL but detectable viremia by SCA. The patients were randomly assigned to receive either raltegravir or a dummy drug (placebo) in addition to their normal ART for 12 weeks. They were then crossed-over (swapped) to the other therapy for a further 12 weeks. At baseline, the trial participants had an average plasma HIV RNA level of 1.7 copies/mL. The HIV RNA level at weeks 10/12 (the average of SCA results at 10 and 12 weeks) was similar in the raltegravir group and in the placebo group and did not differ significantly from this baseline level. There was also no significant change in plasma HIV RNA levels from weeks 10/12 to weeks 22/24 after the patients crossed-over between treatment groups.
What Do These Findings Mean?
In this randomized, cross-over study, raltegravir intensification of ART for 12 weeks did not demonstrably reduce low-level residual viremia in HIV-positive patients receiving standard ART. It is possible that 12 weeks is too short a time to see an effect of raltegravir on residual viremia. Furthermore, although this is one of the biggest trials of this type done to date, it might be that insufficient patients were included in the trial to detect a subtle effect of raltegravir on residual viremia. Nevertheless, these findings argue against the hypothesis that residual viremia arises from ongoing cycles of viral replication and the infection of new cells. Instead, they suggest that residual viremia might be due to the release of HIV from stable reservoirs. If so, new therapeutic strategies designed to eliminate these reservoirs of latently infected cells will be required to cure HIV infection.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000321.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and infectious diseases on HIV infection and AIDS, and on the treatment of HIV
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on antiretroviral therapies
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including the treatment of HIV and AIDS (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus has links to further resources on AIDS and on AIDS medicines (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000321
PMCID: PMC2919424  PMID: 20711481
2.  Inflammatory and Coagulation Biomarkers and Mortality in Patients with HIV Infection 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(10):e203.
Background
In the Strategies for Management of Anti-Retroviral Therapy trial, all-cause mortality was higher for participants randomized to intermittent, CD4-guided antiretroviral treatment (ART) (drug conservation [DC]) than continuous ART (viral suppression [VS]).
We hypothesized that increased HIV-RNA levels following ART interruption induced activation of tissue factor pathways, thrombosis, and fibrinolysis.
Methods and Findings
Stored samples were used to measure six biomarkers: high sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP), interleukin-6 (IL-6), amyloid A, amyloid P, D-dimer, and prothrombin fragment 1+2. Two studies were conducted: (1) a nested case–control study for studying biomarker associations with mortality, and (2) a study to compare DC and VS participants for biomarker changes. For (1), markers were determined at study entry and before death (latest level) for 85 deaths and for two controls (n = 170) matched on country, age, sex, and date of randomization. Odds ratios (ORs) were estimated with logistic regression. For each biomarker, each of the three upper quartiles was compared to the lowest quartile. For (2), the biomarkers were assessed for 249 DC and 250 VS participants at study entry and 1 mo following randomization. Higher levels of hsCRP, IL-6, and D-dimer at study entry were significantly associated with an increased risk of all-cause mortality. Unadjusted ORs (highest versus lowest quartile) were 2.0 (95% confidence interval [CI], 1.0–4.1; p = 0.05), 8.3 (95% CI, 3.3–20.8; p < 0.0001), and 12.4 (95% CI, 4.2–37.0; p < 0.0001), respectively. Associations were significant after adjustment, when the DC and VS groups were analyzed separately, and when latest levels were assessed. IL-6 and D-dimer increased at 1 mo by 30% and 16% in the DC group and by 0% and 5% in the VS group (p < 0.0001 for treatment difference for both biomarkers); increases in the DC group were related to HIV-RNA levels at 1 mo (p < 0.0001). In an expanded case–control analysis (four controls per case), the OR (DC/VS) for mortality was reduced from 1.8 (95% CI, 1.1–3.1; p = 0.02) to 1.5 (95% CI, 0.8–2.8) and 1.4 (95% CI, 0.8–2.5) after adjustment for latest levels of IL-6 and D-dimer, respectively.
Conclusions
IL-6 and D-dimer were strongly related to all-cause mortality. Interrupting ART may further increase the risk of death by raising IL-6 and D-dimer levels. Therapies that reduce the inflammatory response to HIV and decrease IL-6 and D-dimer levels may warrant investigation.
Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.gov (NCT00027352).
Analyzing biomarker data from participants in a previous randomized controlled trial of continuous versus interrupted HIV treatment (the SMART trial), James Neaton and colleagues find that mortality was related to IL-6 and fibrin D-dimers.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Globally, more than 30 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV infects and destroys immune system cells (including CD4 cells, a type of lymphocyte). The first stage of HIV infection can involve a short flu-like illness but in the second stage, which can last many years, HIV replicates in the lymph glands (small immune system organs throughout the body) without causing any symptoms. Eventually, however, the immune system becomes so damaged that HIV-infected individuals begin to succumb to “opportunistic” infections (for example, bacterial pneumonia) and cancers (in particular, Karposi sarcoma) that the immune system would normally prevent. AIDS itself is characterized by one or more severe opportunistic infections or cancers (so-called AIDS-related diseases) and by a low blood CD4 cell count. HIV infections cannot be cured but antiretroviral therapy (ART)—combinations of powerful antiretroviral drugs—can keep them in check, so many HIV-positive people now have substantially improved life expectancy.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, the effectiveness of ART sometimes wanes over time and prolonged ART can cause unpleasant side effects. Consequently, alternative ART regimens are continually being tested in clinical trials. In the Strategies for Management of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (SMART) trial, for example, HIV-positive patients received either continuous ART (the viral suppression or VS arm), or ART only when their CD4 cell counts were below 250 cells/mm3 (the drug conservation or DC arm; the normal adult CD4 cell count is about 1,000 cells/mm3). Unexpectedly, more people died in the DC arm than in the VS arm from non-AIDS diseases (including heart and circulation problems), a result that led to the trial being stopped early. One possible explanation for these excess deaths is that increased HIV levels following ART interruption might have induced an inflammatory response (a non-specific immune response that occurs with infection or wounding) and/or a hypercoagulable state (a condition in which blood clots form inside undamaged blood vessels) and that these changes increased the risk of death from non-AIDS diseases. In this study, the researchers test this hypothesis.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers measured the levels of proteins that indicate the presence of inflammation or increased coagulation (biomarkers) in stored blood samples from the 85 people who died during the SMART trial (55 and 30 of the participants assigned to receive DC and VS, respectively) and from 170 survivors who served as comparison (control) participants. (Two control participants were “matched” to each participant who had died (cases). In this “case-control” study, an increased risk of death was associated with higher levels at study entry of the inflammation biomarkers high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hsCRP) and interleukin 6 (IL-6) and of the coagulation biomarker D-dimer. The risk of death among people with hsCRP values in the highest quarter of measured values was twice that among people with hsCRP values in the lowest quarter (this is expressed as an odds ratio of 2). For IL-6 and D-dimer, the equivalent odds ratios were 8.3 and 12.4, respectively. Furthermore, increases in hsCRP, IL-6 and D-dimer after study entry were associated with an increased risk of death. The researchers also measured blood levels of the same biomarkers in 250 randomly chosen patients from each of the two treatment arms. IL-6 levels increased by 30% over the first month of the trial in the DC arm but were unchanged in the VS arm. Over the same period, D-dimer levels increased by 16% and 5% in the DC and VS arms, respectively. Increases in both markers in the DC arm were related to HIV RNA levels after one month.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Taken together, these findings suggest that HIV-induced activation of inflammation and coagulation increases the risk of death among HIV-positive patients and that interrupting ART further increases this risk, possibly by increasing IL-6 and D-dimer levels. Because only a small number of people died in this study, the relationship between these biomarkers and death and illness among treated and untreated HIV-positive individuals needs to be confirmed in further studies. However, these findings suggest that the development of therapies that reduce the effect that HIV replication has on inflammation and blood coagulation, or that reduce IL-6 and D-dimer levels, might extend the life-expectancy of HIV-positive people.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050203.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS and about the SMART trial
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is also available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV/AIDS
More information about the SMART trial is available on ClinicalTrials.gov, a database of clinical trials maintained by the US National Institutes of Health
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050203
PMCID: PMC2570418  PMID: 18942885
3.  Correlation between circulating HIV-1 RNA and broad HIV-1 neutralizing antibody activity 
Objective
To examine the relationship between HIV-1 antigenic load (plasma RNA copies/ml) and broad HIV-1 neutralizing antibody activity.
Methods
Plasma from 120 HIV-1 infected patients, including HIV-1 Natural Viral Suppressors (similar to Elite Controllers), was tested for neutralization against 15 Tier 1/Tier 2 HIV-1 pseudoviruses. Broad HIV-1 neutralizing antibody activity was confirmed with IgG and heterlogous clade testing (18 pseudoviruses from Clades A, C, and CRF02_AG). Statistical analysis was performed to determine factors associated with broad HIV-1 neutralizing antibody activity.
Results
Ten individuals with broad HIV-1 neutralizing antibody activity were identified. These individuals had a median CD4 count of 589 cells/ul (range 202–927), 1,611 HIV-1 RNA copies/ml (range 110–8,964), and 13 years since HIV diagnosis (range 1–22). There was a significant correlation between the presence of broadly neutralizing antibodies in those with HIV-1 RNA between 100 and 10,000 copies/ml compared to those <100 or >10,000 copies/ml (p=.0003 and .0245, respectively). Individuals with HIV-1 RNA 100–10,000 copies/ml had a higher number of Tier 2 viruses neutralized compared to the <100or >10,000 copies/ml groups (p=< .0001 and p=.076, respectively). Male sex was associated with broad HIV-1 neutralizing antibody activity (p=.016).
Conclusion
These results indicate that low but persistent HIV antigen expression correlates with broad HIV-1 neutralizing antibody activity. At higher levels of plasma viremia, neutralization titers were diminished. Conversely, at lower levels, there appears to be insufficient antigen stimulation to maintain high neutralization titers. These findings may have important implications in furthering the understanding of the humoral response to HIV infection.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e3182100c1b
PMCID: PMC3110998  PMID: 21283016
HIV; broadly neutralizing antibody; neutralizing activity; HIV RNA; natural viral suppressor; elite controller
4.  Impaired Hepatitis C Virus-Specific T Cell Responses and Recurrent Hepatitis C Virus in HIV Coinfection 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(12):e492.
Background
Hepatitis C virus (HCV)-specific T cell responses are critical for spontaneous resolution of HCV viremia. Here we examined the effect of a lymphotropic virus, HIV-1, on the ability of coinfected patients to maintain spontaneous control of HCV infection.
Methods and Findings
We measured T cell responsiveness by lymphoproliferation and interferon-γ ELISPOT in a large cohort of HCV-infected individuals with and without HIV infection. Among 47 HCV/HIV-1-coinfected individuals, spontaneous control of HCV was associated with more frequent HCV-specific lymphoproliferative (LP) responses (35%) compared to coinfected persons who exhibited chronic HCV viremia (7%, p = 0.016), but less frequent compared to HCV controllers who were not HIV infected (86%, p = 0.003). Preservation of HCV-specific LP responses in coinfected individuals was associated with a higher nadir CD4 count (r2 = 0.45, p < 0.001) and the presence and magnitude of the HCV-specific CD8+ T cell interferon-γ response (p = 0.0014). During long-term follow-up, recurrence of HCV viremia occurred in six of 25 coinfected individuals with prior control of HCV, but in 0 of 16 HIV-1-negative HCV controllers (p = 0.03, log rank test). In these six individuals with recurrent HCV viremia, the magnitude of HCV viremia following recurrence inversely correlated with the CD4 count at time of breakthrough (r = −0.94, p = 0.017).
Conclusions
These results indicate that HIV infection impairs the immune response to HCV—including in persons who have cleared HCV infection—and that HIV-1-infected individuals with spontaneous control of HCV remain at significant risk for a second episode of HCV viremia. These findings highlight the need for repeat viral RNA testing of apparent controllers of HCV infection in the setting of HIV-1 coinfection and provide a possible explanation for the higher rate of HCV persistence observed in this population.
HIV infection impairs the immune response to HCV. Even individuals who have cleared HCV infection remain at significant risk for a second episode of HCV viremia.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Because of shared transmission routes (contaminated needles, contaminated blood products, and, to a lesser extent, unprotected sex), a large proportion of HIV-infected individuals (estimates range between 25% and 33%) are also infected with the hepatitis C virus (HCV). In most but not all individuals infected with HCV, the virus infection is chronic and causes liver disease that can eventually lead to liver failure. Disease progress is slow; it often takes decades until infected individuals develop serious liver disease. In people infected with both HCV and HIV, however, liver disease caused by HCV often appears sooner and progresses faster. As highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and prophylaxis of opportunistic infections increase the life span of persons living with HIV, HCV-related liver disease has become a major cause of hospital admissions and deaths among HIV-infected persons.
Why Was This Study Done?
A sizable minority of people who are infected with HCV manage to control the virus and never get liver disease, and scientists have found that these people somehow mounted a strong immune response against the hepatitis C virus. CD4+ T cells, the very immune cells that are infected and destroyed by HIV, play an important role in this immune response. The goal of the present study was to better understand how infection with HIV compromises the specific immune response to HCV and thereby the control of HCV disease progression.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited four groups of patients, 94 in total, all of whom were infected with HCV. Two groups comprised patients who were infected with HIV as well as HCV, with either high or undetectable levels of HCV (30 patients in each group). The two other groups included patients not infected with HIV, either with high or undetectable levels of HCV (17 patients in each group). The researchers focused on the individuals who, despite coinfection with HIV, were able to control their HCV infection. They found that those individuals managed to maintain relatively high levels of CD4+ T cells that specifically recognize HCV. However, a quarter of these patients (six out of 25) failed to keep HCV levels down for the entire observation period of up to 2.5 years; their blood levels of HCV rose substantially, most likely due to recurrence of the previously suppressed virus (the researchers could not be certain that none of the patients had become infected again after a new exposure to HCV-contaminated blood, but there was no evidence that they had engaged in risky behavior). The rise of HCV levels in the blood of the relapsed patients coincided with a drop in overall CD4+ T cell numbers. Following relapse in these individuals, HCV did not return to undetectable levels during the study. During the same period none of the 16 HIV-uninfected people with controlled HCV infection experienced a recurrence of detectable HCV.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Despite the relatively small numbers of patients, these results suggest that recurrence of HCV after initial control of the virus is more likely in people who are coinfected with HIV, and that HCV control is lost when CD4+ T cell counts fall. This is one more reason to test all HIV-positive patients for HCV coinfection. Coinfected patients, even those who seem to be controlling HCV and would not automatically receive HCV treatment, should be regularly tested for a rise of HCV levels. In addition, maintaining CD4+ T cells at a high level might be particularly important for those patients, which means that doctors might consider starting HAART therapy earlier than is generally recommended for HIV-infected individuals. Additional studies are needed to support these recommendations, however, especially as this study did not follow the patients long enough to determine the consequences of the observed loss of control of HCV.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030492.
AIDS Treatment Data Network factsheet on HIV/HCV coinfection
US CDC factsheet on HIV/HCV coinfection
American Liver Foundation, information on HIV and HCV
MedlinePlus pages on HCV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030492
PMCID: PMC1705826  PMID: 17194190
5.  Inflammation and Mortality in HIV-infected Adults: Analysis of the FRAM Study Cohort 
Objective
To determine the association of inflammatory markers, fibrinogen and C-reactive protein (CRP), with 5-year mortality risk.
Methods
Vital status was ascertained in 922 HIV-infected participants from the Study of Fat Redistribution and Metabolic Change in HIV infection. Multivariable logistic regression estimated odds ratios (OR) after adjustment for demographic, cardiovascular and HIV-related factors.
Results
Over a 5-year period, HIV-infected participants with fibrinogen levels in the highest tertile(>406mg/dL) had 2.6-fold higher adjusted odds of death than those with fibrinogen in the lowest tertile(<319mg/dL). Those with high CRP(>3mg/L) had 2.7-fold higher adjusted odds of death than those with CRP<1mg/L. When stratified by CD4 count category, fibrinogen (as a linear variable) remained independently associated [OR(95% confidence intervals) per 100mg/dL increase in fibrinogen: 1.93(1.57,2.37);1.43(1.14,1.79);1.43(1.14,1.81);and 1.30(1.04,1.63) for CD4 <200,200–350,>350–500, and >500cells/μL, respectively. Higher CRP also remained associated with higher odds of death overall and within each CD4 subgroup.
Conclusion
Fibrinogen and CRP are strong and independent predictors of mortality in HIV-infected adults. Our findings suggest that even in those with relatively preserved CD4 counts >500cells/μL, inflammation remains an important risk factor for mortality. Further investigation should determine whether interventions to reduce inflammation might decrease mortality risk in HIV-infected individuals.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e3181e66216
PMCID: PMC2955817  PMID: 20581689
HIV; inflammation; C-reactive protein; fibrinogen; mortality
6.  Quantification of Genital Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 (HIV-1) DNA in Specimens from Women with Low Plasma HIV-1 RNA Levels Typical of HIV-1 Nontransmitters▿  
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2006;44(12):4357-4362.
Studies of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) transmission suggest that genital HIV-1 RNA and DNA may both be determinants of HIV-1 infectivity. Despite its potential role in HIV-1 transmission, there are limited quantitative data on genital HIV-1 DNA. Here we validated an in-house real-time PCR method for quantification of HIV-1 DNA in genital specimens. In reactions with 100 genomes to 1 genome isolated from a cell line containing one HIV-1 provirus/cell, this real-time PCR assay is linear and agrees closely with a commercially available real-time PCR assay specific for a cellular housekeeping gene. In mock genital samples spiked with low numbers of HIV-1-infected cells such that the expected HIV-1 DNA copy number/reaction was 100, 10, or 5, the average copy number/reaction was 80.2 (standard deviation [SD], 28.3), 9.1 (SD, 5.4), or 3.1 (SD, 2.1), respectively. We used this method to examine genital HIV-1 DNA levels in specimens from women whose low plasma HIV-1 RNA levels are typical of HIV-1 nontransmitters. The median HIV-1 DNA copy number in endocervical secretions from these women (1.8 HIV-1 DNA copies/10,000 cells) was lower than that for women with higher plasma HIV-1 RNA levels (16.6 HIV-1 DNA copies/10,000 cells) (P = 0.04), as was the median HIV-1 DNA copy number in vaginal secretions (undetectable versus 1.0 HIV-1 DNA copies/10,000 cells). These data suggest that women with low plasma HIV-1 RNA and thus a predicted low risk of HIV-1 transmission have low levels of genital HIV-1 cell-associated virus. The assay described here can be utilized in future efforts to examine the role of cell-associated HIV-1 in transmission.
doi:10.1128/JCM.01481-06
PMCID: PMC1698424  PMID: 17050820
7.  Bacterial Vaginosis Associated with Increased Risk of Female-to-Male HIV-1 Transmission: A Prospective Cohort Analysis among African Couples 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(6):e1001251.
In a prospective study, Craig Cohen and colleagues investigate the association between bacterial vaginosis and the risk of female-to-male HIV-1 transmission.
Background
Bacterial vaginosis (BV), a disruption of the normal vaginal flora, has been associated with a 60% increased risk of HIV-1 acquisition in women and higher concentration of HIV-1 RNA in the genital tract of HIV-1–infected women. However, whether BV, which is present in up to half of African HIV-1–infected women, is associated with an increase in HIV-1 transmission to male partners has not been assessed in previous studies.
Methods and Findings
We assessed the association between BV on female-to-male HIV-1 transmission risk in a prospective study of 2,236 HIV-1–seropositive women and their HIV-1 uninfected male partners from seven African countries from a randomized placebo-controlled trial that enrolled heterosexual African adults who were seropositive for both HIV-1 and herpes simplex virus (HSV)-2, and their HIV-1–seronegative partners. Participants were followed for up to 24 months; every three months, vaginal swabs were obtained from female partners for Gram stain and male partners were tested for HIV-1. BV and normal vaginal flora were defined as a Nugent score of 7–10 and 0–3, respectively. To reduce misclassification, HIV-1 sequence analysis of viruses from seroconverters and their partners was performed to determine linkage of HIV-1 transmissions. Overall, 50 incident HIV-1 infections occurred in men in which the HIV-1–infected female partner had an evaluable vaginal Gram stain. HIV-1 incidence in men whose HIV-1–infected female partners had BV was 2.91 versus 0.76 per 100 person-years in men whose female partners had normal vaginal flora (hazard ratio 3.62, 95% CI 1.74–7.52). After controlling for sociodemographic factors, sexual behavior, male circumcision, sexually transmitted infections, pregnancy, and plasma HIV-1 RNA levels in female partners, BV was associated with a greater than 3-fold increased risk of female-to-male HIV-1 transmission (adjusted hazard ratio 3.17, 95% CI 1.37–7.33).
Conclusions
This study identified an association between BV and increased risk of HIV-1 transmission to male partners. Several limitations may affect the generalizability of our results including: all participants underwent couples HIV counseling and testing and enrolled in an HIV-1 prevention trial, and index participants had a baseline CD4 count ≥250 cells/mm3 and were HSV-2 seropositive. Given the high prevalence of BV and the association of BV with increased risk of both female HIV-1 acquisition and transmission found in our study, if this association proves to be causal, BV could be responsible for a substantial proportion of new HIV-1 infections in Africa. Normalization of vaginal flora in HIV-1–infected women could mitigate female-to-male HIV-1 transmission.
Trial Registration: ClinicalTrials.com NCT00194519
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Since the first reported case of AIDS in 1981, the number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has risen steadily. By the end of 2010, 34 million people were living with HIV/AIDS. At the beginning of the epidemic more men than women were infected with HIV. Now, however, 50% of all adults infected with HIV are women and in sub-Saharan Africa, where two-thirds of HIV-positive people live, women account for 59% of people living with HIV. Moreover, among 15–24 year-olds, women are eight times more likely than men to be HIV-positive. This pattern of infection has developed because most people in sub-Saharan Africa contract HIV through unprotected heterosexual sex. The risk of HIV transmission for both men and women in Africa and elsewhere can be reduced by abstaining from sex, by only having one or a few partners, by always using condoms, and by male circumcision. In addition, several studies suggest that antiretroviral therapy (ART) greatly reduces HIV transmission.
Why Was This Study Done?
Unfortunately, in sub-Saharan Africa, only about a fifth of HIV-positive people are currently receiving ART, which means that there is an urgent need to find other effective ways to reduce HIV transmission in this region. In this prospective cohort study (a type of study that follows a group of people for some time to see which personal characteristics are associated with disease development), the researchers investigate whether bacterial vaginosis—a condition in which harmful bacteria disrupt the normal vaginal flora—increases the risk of female-to-male HIV transmission among African couples. Bacterial vaginosis, which is extremely common in sub-Saharan Africa, has been associated with an increased risk of HIV acquisition in women and induces viral replication and shedding in the vagina in HIV-positive women, which may mean that HIV-positive women with bacterial vaginosis are more likely to transmit HIV to their male partners than women without this condition. If this is the case, then interventions that reduce the incidence of bacterial vaginosis might be valuable HIV prevention strategies.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed data collected from 2,236 heterosexual African couples enrolled in a clinical trial (the Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study) whose primary aim was to investigate whether suppression of herpes simplex virus infection could prevent HIV transmission. In all the couples, the woman was HIV-positive and the man was initially HIV-negative. The female partners were examined every three months for the presence of bacterial vaginosis and the male partners were tested regularly for HIV infection. The researchers also determined whether the men who became HIV-positive were infected with the same HIV strain as their partner to check that their infection had been acquired from this partner. The HIV incidence in men whose partners had bacterial vaginosis was 2.9 per 100 person-years (that is, 2.9 out of every 100 men became HIV-positive per year) whereas the HIV incidence in men whose partners had a normal vaginal flora was 0.76 per 100 person-years. After controlling for factors that might affect the risk of HIV transmission such as male circumcision and viral levels in female partner's blood, the researchers estimated that bacterial vaginosis was associated with a 3.17-fold increased risk of female-to-male HIV transmission in their study population.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that HIV-positive African women with bacterial vaginosis are more than three times as likely to transmit HIV to their male partners as those with a normal vaginal flora. It is possible that some unknown characteristic of the men in this study might have increased both their own risk of HIV infection and their partner's risk of bacterial vaginosis. Nevertheless, because bacterial vaginosis is so common in Africa (half of the women in this study had bacterial vaginosis at least once during follow-up) and because this condition is associated with both female HIV acquisition and transmission, these findings suggest that bacterial vaginosis could be responsible for a substantial proportion of new HIV infections in Africa. Normalization of vaginal flora in HIV-infected women by frequent presumptive treatment with antimicrobials (treatment with a curative dose of antibiotics without testing for bacterial vaginosis) or possibly by treatment with probiotics (live “good” bacteria) might, therefore, reduce female-to-male HIV transmission in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001251.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and infectious diseases on all aspects of HIV infection and AIDS and on bacterial vaginosis
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including specific information about HIV/AIDS and women; it also has information on bacterial vaginosis (in English and Spanish)
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, and information on bacterial vaginosis and HIV transmission (in several languages)
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS nonprofit group on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on HIV and AIDS prevention, on women, HIV and AIDS and on HIV/AIDS in Africa (in English and Spanish); personal stories of women living with HIV are available; the website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV
More information about the Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001251
PMCID: PMC3383741  PMID: 22745608
8.  Inflammation and Albuminuria in HIV-infected Patients Receiving Combination Antiretroviral Therapy 
Background:
The observed higher prevalence of albuminuria among HIV-infected patients has been strongly associated with cardiovascular disease and higher mortality. In HIV-seronegative patients with metabolic syndrome, malignancies and infections, pro-inflammatory cytokines, and acute phase reactants have been associated with albuminuria. However, the pathophysiology of albuminuria in HIV-seropositive individuals is poorly understood. We investigated the association of albuminuria with inflammatory biomarkers among HIV-infected patients on combination antiretroviral therapy.
Methods:
This is a cross-sectional analysis of the entry data of the participants enrolled in the Hawai‘i Aging with HIV-Cardiovascular Cohort. Participants were ≥ 40 years old, lived in Hawai‘i, documented HIV-positive, and had been on antiretroviral therapy for at least 6 months prior to recruitment. Albuminuria was defined as urine albumin-to-creatinine ratio (ACR) of 30 mg/g or higher, as assessed from single random urine collection. Microalbuminuria was defined as urine ACR between 30 and 300 mg/g and macroalbuminuria as urine ACR more than 300 mg/g. Plasma inflammatory biomarkers were assessed by multiplexing using Milliplex Human Cardiovascular Disease panels. Differences in clinical and laboratory characteristics between subjects with and without albuminuria were compared using a non-parametric Wilcoxon rank test for continuous variables and a chi-squared test for categorical variables. Univariate and multivariate logistic regression analyses were utilized to assess the association between presence of albuminuria as the dependent variable and plasma biomarkers as independent variables. Log-transformed plasma inflammatory biomarkers with P-value less than .1 in univariate logistic regression analysis were selected for examination in separate multivariate logistic regression models, adjusting for previously reported risk factors for albuminuria (age, gender, race, diabetes, hypertension, CD4 percent, current ritonavir, and tenofovir use).
Results:
Among a cohort of 111 HIV-infected patients (median age of 52 (Q1: 46, Q3: 57); male 86%; diabetes 6%; hypertension 33%; median CD4 count of 489 cells/mm3(Q1:341, Q3: 638); HIV RNA PCR < 48 copies/ml 85%), eighteen subjects (16.2%) had microalbuminuria, and two subjects (1.8%) had macroalbuminuria. There was no significant difference in CD4 count and HIV viral loads between patients with and without albuminuria. In univariate logistic regression analysis, higher levels of log-transformed soluble E-selectin (sE-selectin), soluble vascular cell adhesion molecule 1 (sVCAM-1), tissue plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (tPAI-1), C-reactive protein (CRP), serum amyloid A (SAA), serum amyloid P (SAP), interleukin-1β, interleukin-8, and tumor necrosis factor-α (TNF-α) were associated with albuminuria (P < .10). In multivariate logistic regression models, sE-selectin, sVCAM-1, tPAI-1, CRP, and SAP remained significant (P < .05) even after adjustment for previously reported risk factors for albuminuria.
Conclusions:
This study has shown an association between inflammation and albuminuria independent of previously reported risk factors for albuminuria in HIV-infected subjects on stable combination antiretroviral therapy. Chronic low-grade inflammation despite potent antiretroviral treatment may be one of the factors causing higher rates of albuminuria among HIV-infected patients. Future studies are needed to further elucidate the pathophysiologic mechanisms of chronic inflammation in HIV and its impact on kidney disease.
PMCID: PMC4175929
9.  Plasma and Mucosal HIV Viral Loads Are Associated with Genital Tract Inflammation In HIV-Infected Women 
Background
Systemic and mucosal inflammation may play a role in HIV control. A cross-sectional comparison was conducted among women in the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) to explore the hypothesis that compared to HIV-uninfected participants, women with HIV and in particular, those with high plasma viral load (PVL) have increased levels of mucosal and systemic inflammatory mediators and impaired mucosal endogenous antimicrobial activity.
Methods
19 HIV-uninfected, 40 HIV-infected on antiretroviral therapy (ART) with PVL ≤ 2600 copies/ml (low viral load) (HIV+-LVL), and 19 HIV-infected on or off ART with PVL >10,000 (high viral load) (HIV+-HVL) were evaluated. Immune mediators and viral RNA were quantified in plasma and cervicovaginal lavage (CVL). CVL antimicrobial activity was also determined.
Results
Compared to HIV-uninfected, HIV+-HVL women had higher levels of mucosal, but not systemic pro-inflammatory cytokines and chemokines, higher Nugent scores, and lower E. coli bactericidal activity. In contrast, there were no significant differences between HIV+-LVL and HIV-uninfected controls. After adjusting for PVL, HIV genital tract shedding was significantly associated with higher CVL concentrations of IL-6, IL-1β, MIP-1α, and RANTES and higher plasma concentrations of MIP-1α. High PVL was associated with higher CVL levels of IL-1β and RANTES, as well as with higher Nugent scores, lower E. coli bactericidal activity, smoking and lower CD4 counts; smoking and CD4 count retained statistical significance in a multivariate model.
Conclusion
Further study is needed to determine if the relationship between mucosal inflammation and PVL is causal and to determine if reducing mucosal inflammation is beneficial.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e3182961cfc
PMCID: PMC3706034  PMID: 23591635
HIV; HSV; mucosal immunity; inflammation; female genital tract; WIHS
10.  Heterosexual HIV-1 transmission after initiation of antiretroviral therapy: a prospective cohort analysis 
Lancet  2010;375(9731):2092-2098.
Background
High plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations are associated with increased risk of HIV-1 transmission. Initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces plasma HIV-1 concentrations, but little empiric data are available on the rate of sexual HIV-1 transmission from persons receiving ART.
Methods
3381 African heterosexual HIV-1 serodiscordant couples were followed prospectively for up to 24 months. At enrollment, HIV-1 infected partners had CD4 counts ≥250 cells/mm3 and did not meet country guidelines for ART initiation; during follow-up, CD4 counts were measured every 6 months and ART initiated following national guidelines. HIV-1 uninfected partners were tested for HIV-1 every 3 months. We compared genetically-linked HIV-1 transmission rates by ART initiation.
Results
349 (10%) HIV-1 infected partners initiated ART, at a median CD4 count of 198 cells/mm3. Only one of 103 linked HIV-1 transmissions was observed from an HIV-1 infected partner who had initiated ART corresponding to HIV-1 transmission rates of 0.37 versus 2.24 per 100 person-years for those who had initiated versus not initiated ART, respectively (adjusted incidence rate ratio 0.08, 95% confidence interval 0.002–0.57, p=0.004). After ART initiation, plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations decreased significantly (from median 4.88 to <2.38 log10 copies/mL, p<0.001) as did unprotected sex (6.2% of visits before to 3.7% of visits after ART initiation, p=0.03). Among those not on ART, the highest HIV-1 transmission rate (8.79 per 100 person-years) was from HIV-1 infected persons with CD4 counts <200 cells/mm3. In couples in which the HIV-1 infected partner had a CD4 ≥200 cells/mm3, 70% of transmissions occurred when plasma HIV-1 concentrations exceeded 50,000 copies/mL.
Conclusions
Among African heterosexual couples, ART initiation was followed by a 92% reduction in HIV-1 transmission risk, likely due to significantly reduced plasma HIV-1 levels, and was accompanied by increased self-reported condom use. The highest HIV-1 risk and greatest relative prevention benefit from ART was among couples in which the HIV-1 infected partner had CD4 counts <200 cells/mm3 or plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations >50,000 copies/mL.
doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60705-2
PMCID: PMC2922041  PMID: 20537376
HAART; HIV-1 transmission; HIV-1 discordant couples
11.  Cellular Levels of HIV Unspliced RNA from Patients on Combination Antiretroviral Therapy with Undetectable Plasma Viremia Predict the Therapy Outcome 
PLoS ONE  2009;4(12):e8490.
Background
Combination antiretroviral therapy (cART), the standard of care for HIV-1 infection, is considered to be successful when plasma viremia remains below the detection limit of commercial assays. Yet, cART fails in a substantial proportion of patients after the apparent success. No laboratory markers are known that are predictive of cART outcome in initial responders during the period of undetectable plasma viremia.
Methodology/Principal Findings
Here, we report the results of a retrospective longitudinal study of twenty-six HIV-infected individuals who initially responded to cART by having plasma viremia suppressed to <50 copies/ml. Eleven of these patients remained virologically suppressed, whereas fifteen experienced subsequent cART failure. Using sensitive methods based on seminested real-time PCR, we measured the levels of HIV-1 proviral (pr) DNA, unspliced (us) RNA, and multiply spliced RNA in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC) of these patients at multiple time points during the period of undetectable plasma viremia on cART. Median under-therapy level of usRNA was significantly higher (0.43 log10 difference, P = 0.0015) in patients who experienced subsequent cART failure than in successfully treated patients. In multivariate analysis, adjusted for baseline CD4+ counts, prior ART experience, and particular cART regimens, the maximal usRNA level under therapy was the best independent predictor of subsequent therapy failure (adjusted odds ratio [95% CI], 24.4 [1.5–389.5], P = 0.024). The only other factor significantly associated with cART failure was prior ART experience (adjusted odds ratio [95% CI], 12.3 [1.1–138.4], P = 0.042). Levels of usRNA under cART inversely correlated with baseline CD4+ counts (P = 0.0003), but did not correlate with either baseline usRNA levels or levels of prDNA under therapy.
Conclusion
Our data demonstrate that the level of HIV-1 usRNA in PBMC, measured in cART-treated patients with undetectable plasma viremia, is a strong predictive marker for the outcome of therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0008490
PMCID: PMC2795168  PMID: 20046870
12.  Mean CD4 cell count changes in patients failing a first-line antiretroviral therapy in resource-limited settings 
BMC Infectious Diseases  2012;12:147.
Background
Changes in CD4 cell counts are poorly documented in individuals with low or moderate-level viremia while on antiretroviral treatment (ART) in resource-limited settings. We assessed the impact of on-going HIV-RNA replication on CD4 cell count slopes in patients treated with a first-line combination ART.
Method
Naïve patients on a first-line ART regimen with at least two measures of HIV-RNA available after ART initiation were included in the study. The relationships between mean CD4 cell count change and HIV-RNA at 6 and 12 months after ART initiation (M6 and M12) were assessed by linear mixed models adjusted for gender, age, clinical stage and year of starting ART.
Results
3,338 patients were included (14 cohorts, 64% female) and the group had the following characteristics: a median follow-up time of 1.6 years, a median age of 34 years, and a median CD4 cell count at ART initiation of 107 cells/μL. All patients with suppressed HIV-RNA at M12 had a continuous increase in CD4 cell count up to 18 months after treatment initiation. By contrast, any degree of HIV-RNA replication both at M6 and M12 was associated with a flat or a decreasing CD4 cell count slope. Multivariable analysis using HIV-RNA thresholds of 10,000 and 5,000 copies confirmed the significant effect of HIV-RNA on CD4 cell counts both at M6 and M12.
Conclusion
In routinely monitored patients on an NNRTI-based first-line ART, on-going low-level HIV-RNA replication was associated with a poor immune outcome in patients who had detectable levels of the virus after one year of ART.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-12-147
PMCID: PMC3573925  PMID: 22742573
HIV-1; CD4 count; CD4 slope; HIV-RNA threshold; Resource limited settings
13.  Association of early HIV viremia with mortality after HIV-associated lymphoma 
AIDS (London, England)  2013;27(15):2365-2373.
Objective
To examine the association between early HIV viremia and mortality after HIV-associated lymphoma.
Design
Multicenter observational cohort study.
Setting
Center for AIDS Research Network of Integrated Clinical Systems cohort.
Subjects
HIV-infected patients with lymphoma diagnosed between 1996 and 2011, who were alive 6 months after lymphoma diagnosis and with ≥2 HIV RNA values during the 6 months after lymphoma diagnosis.
Exposure
Cumulative HIV viremia during the 6 months after lymphoma diagnosis, expressed as viremia copy-6-months.
Main outcome measure
All-cause mortality between 6 months and 5 years after lymphoma diagnosis.
Results
Of 224 included patients, 183 (82%) had non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL) and 41 (18%) had Hodgkin lymphoma (HL). At lymphoma diagnosis, 105 (47%) patients were on antiretroviral therapy (ART), median CD4 count was 148 cells/µlL (IQR 54– 322), and 33% had suppressed HIV RNA (<400 copies/mL). In adjusted analyses, mortality was associated with older age [adjusted hazard ratio (AHR) 1.37 per decade increase, 95% CI 1.03–1.83], lymphoma occurrence on ART (AHR 1.63, 95% CI 1.02– 2.63), lower CD4 count (AHR 0.75 per 100 cell/µL increase, 95% CI 0.64–0.89), and higher early cumulative viremia (AHR 1.35 per log10copies × 6-months/mL, 95% CI 1.11–1.65). The detrimental effect of early cumulative viremia was consistent across patient groups defined by ART status, CD4 count, and histology.
Conclusions
Exposure to each additional 1-unit log10 in HIV RNA throughout the 6 months after lymphoma diagnosis, was associated with a 35% increase in subsequent mortality. These results suggest that early and effective ART during chemotherapy may improve survival.
doi:10.1097/QAD.0b013e3283635232
PMCID: PMC3773290  PMID: 23736149
AIDS; Burkitt lymphoma; diffuse large B-cell lymphoma; HIV; Hodgkin lymphoma; lymphoma; non-Hodgkin lymphoma
14.  Association of Residual Plasma Viremia and Intima-Media Thickness in Antiretroviral-Treated Patients with Controlled Human Immunodeficiency Virus Infection 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e113876.
Background
While residual plasma viremia is commonly observed in HIV-infected patients undergoing antiretroviral treatment (ART), little is known about its subclinical consequences.
Methods
This cross-sectional study included 47 male, never-smoking, non-diabetic patients with ≥4 years of ART and controlled HIV-replication (HIV-viral load, VL <20 copies/mL for ≥1 year). Residual HIV-VL was measured using an ultrasensitive assay (quantification limit: 1 copy/ml). Patients were categorized as having detectable (D; 1-20 copies/mL, n = 14) or undetectable (UD; <1 copies/mL, n = 33) HIV-VL. Linear regression was used to model the difference in total carotid intima-media thickness [c-IMT, measures averaged across common carotid artery (cca), bifurcation, and internal carotid artery] and cca-IMT alone across detection groups. Multivariable models were constructed for each endpoint in a forward-stepwise approach.
Results
No significant differences were observed between viremia groups with respect to median ART-duration (9.6 years, IQR = 6.8–10.9), nadir CD4+T-cell (208/mm3, IQR = 143–378), and CD4+T-cell count (555/mm3, IQR = 458–707). Median adjusted inflammatory markers tended to be higher in patients with D- than UD-viremia, with differences in IL-10 being significant (p = 0.03). After adjustment on age, systolic blood pressure, and insulin resistance, mean cca-IMT was significantly lower in patients with undetectable (0.668 mm±0.010) versus detectable viremia (0.727 mm±0.015, p = 0.002). Cca-IMT was also independently associated with age and insulin resistance. Mean adjusted total c-IMT was no different between viremia groups (p = 0.2), however there was large variability in bifurcation c-IMT measurements.
Conclusions
Higher cca-IMT was observed in patients with detectable, compared to undetectable, HIV-VL in never-smoking ART-controlled patients, suggesting that residual HIV viremia may be linked to atherosclerosis.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0113876
PMCID: PMC4240670  PMID: 25415323
15.  Immunotherapy with Canarypox Vaccine and Interleukin-2 for HIV-1 Infection: Termination of a Randomized Trial 
PLoS Clinical Trials  2007;2(1):e5.
Objectives:
To determine whether immunotherapy of chronic HIV-1 infection can prevent or attenuate viremia upon antiviral discontinuation.
Design:
This was a Phase II randomized, partially double blinded, 2×2 factorial study of three steps of 12 wk/step. Step I involved four groups: (1) vaccine placebo, (2) vaccine (ALVAC, vCP1452), (3) placebo + interleukin 2 (IL-2), and (4) vaccine + IL-2. Step II involved a 12-wk diagnostic treatment interruption (DTI). Step III involved an extension of the DTI for an additional 12 wk.
Setting:
The Weill-Cornell General Clinical Research Center.
Participants:
Chronically infected HIV-1 positive adults with undetectable HIV-1 levels and > 400 CD4+ T cells/μl.
Interventions
An HIV canarypox vaccine (vCP1452) and vaccine placebo, administered every 4 wk for four doses, and low-dose IL-2 administered daily for 12–24 wk.
Outcome measures:
Primary endpoints: (1) Proportion of participants with undetectable plasma HIV RNA during trial Step II, (2) mean log10 HIV RNA copies/ml ([HIV]) from weeks 21–25, and (3) proportion of individuals eligible for trial Step III.
Results:
44 participants were randomized, but 16 withdrew or were withdrawn before completing Step II. As all participants underwent viral relapse in Step II, the study was terminated after 28 participants completed Step II. Among the four groups, there was no difference in mean [HIV] or the proportion of individuals with < log10 4.48 HIV; no difference between the mean [HIV] of the two groups that received ALVAC (n = 17) versus placebo (n = 11); and no significant difference between the mean [HIV] of the two groups that received IL-2 (n = 11) versus placebo (n = 17).
Conclusions:
Neither ALVAC (vCP1452) nor low-dose daily IL-2 nor their combination prevented the relapse of viremia upon discontinuation of antiviral therapy.
Editorial Commentary
Background: Currently, providing that an individual infected with HIV can get access to highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), prognosis can be very good. However, although these treatments suppress replication of HIV, they do not eliminate HIV entirely. One current area of HIV research focuses on whether and how it is possible to take a break from antiretroviral therapy—which is very toxic—and at the same time achieve very low levels of HIV. Some research groups are also interested in whether and how it might be possible to eliminate the virus completely from the bloodstream and immune system of infected people, and therefore achieve a long-term cure. One such approach involves administration of interleukin-2 (IL-2, a hormone involved in the immune response), in the hope that IL-2 will boost the ability of the body's own immune system to eliminate HIV. Various candidate HIV vaccines have also been designed that, it is hoped, will prime the immune system to make it more receptive to IL-2. In the trial reported here, the researchers wanted to test whether IL-2 administration either alone or in combination with an HIV vaccine, ALVAC vCP1452, would maintain low levels of HIV in the blood of people who had stopped taking antiretroviral drugs. Therefore, participants in the trial were assigned to one of four arms: a placebo version of the vaccine only; vaccine only; placebo version of vaccine plus IL-2; or vaccine plus IL-2. The investigators planned to recruit 92 people into the trial who would be given the various interventions tested here for 12 weeks, while also receiving HAART (step 1). Then, HAART was stopped for 12 weeks (step 2), or, in some people, for 24 weeks if HIV levels remained below a certain threshold (step 3).
What the trial shows: 44 people were recruited into the study, but it was terminated once results were analysed from those individuals who had completed 12 weeks without HAART. The researchers did not see any significant differences between the treatment groups in any of the three primary outcome measures, which were the proportion of people with undetectable HIV levels during step 2; the average HIV levels during the last four weeks of step 2; and the proportion of people eligible to continue to step 3. Therefore, the investigators concluded that neither the ALVAC vaccine nor IL-2 alone or in combination with each other, prevented HIV from replicating when HAART was stopped.
Strengths and limitations: In the trial, randomized assignment to the different treatments was performed by the dispensing pharmacist, so study investigators were not able to predict which treatments the next participant would receive. A further strength in the design of this trial is the use of a placebo vaccine to control for ALVAC vCP1452, which enabled participants and investigators to be blinded to whether a patient received vaccine or placebo. However, a placebo was not used as a control for IL-2 because patients often experience characteristic side effects to this treatment. Limitations in the design of this study include the small numbers of participants, which means that the trial did not have enough power to exclude the possibility of a small effect of IL-2 or vaccine on HIV levels in blood. The follow-up in the trial was also short, and efficacy outcomes did not include measures that patients might consider important, such as survival.
Contribution to the evidence: Currently, large-scale trials are evaluating the clinical effectiveness and safety of IL-2 at higher doses than those tested here, together with antiretroviral drugs as treatment for HIV. This study adds data suggesting that IL-2 at a lower dose either with or without the ALVAC vCP1452 vaccine does not prevent HIV replication once antiretroviral drug treatment is stopped.
doi:10.1371/journal.pctr.0020005
PMCID: PMC1783674  PMID: 17260026
16.  Pharmacy Refill Adherence Compared with CD4 Count Changes for Monitoring HIV-Infected Adults on Antiretroviral Therapy 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e109.
Background
World Health Organization (WHO) guidelines for monitoring HIV-infected individuals taking combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) in resource-limited settings recommend using CD4+ T cell (CD4) count changes to monitor treatment effectiveness. In practice, however, falling CD4 counts are a consequence, rather than a cause, of virologic failure. Adherence lapses precede virologic failure and, unlike CD4 counts, data on adherence are immediately available to all clinics dispensing cART. However, the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting future or detecting current virologic failure has not been determined. The goal of this study therefore was to determine the accuracy of adherence assessments for predicting and detecting virologic failure and to compare the accuracy of adherence-based monitoring approaches with approaches monitoring CD4 count changes.
Methodology and Findings
We conducted an observational cohort study among 1,982 of 4,984 (40%) HIV-infected adults initiating non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor-based cART in the Aid for AIDS Disease Management Program, which serves nine countries in southern Africa. Pharmacy refill adherence was calculated as the number of months of cART claims submitted divided by the number of complete months between cART initiation and the last refill prior to the endpoint of interest, expressed as a percentage. The main outcome measure was virologic failure defined as a viral load > 1,000 copies/ml (1) at an initial assessment either 6 or 12 mo after cART initiation and (2) after a previous undetectable (i.e., < 400 copies/ml) viral load (breakthrough viremia). Adherence levels outperformed CD4 count changes when used to detect current virologic failure in the first year after cART initiation (area under the receiver operating characteristic [ROC] curves [AUC] were 0.79 and 0.68 [difference = 0.11; 95% CI 0.06 to 0.16; χ2 = 20.1] respectively at 6 mo, and 0.85 and 0.75 [difference = 0.10; 95% CI 0.05 to 0.14; χ2 = 20.2] respectively at 12 mo; p < 0.001 for both comparisons). When used to detect current breakthrough viremia, adherence and CD4 counts were equally accurate (AUCs of 0.68 versus 0.67, respectively [difference = 0.01; 95% CI −0.06 to 0.07]; χ2 = 0.1, p > 0.5). In addition, adherence levels assessed 3 mo prior to viral load assessments were as accurate for virologic failure occurring approximately 3 mo later as were CD4 count changes calculated from cART initiation to the actual time of the viral load assessments, indicating the potential utility of adherence assessments for predicting future, rather than simply detecting current, virologic failure. Moreover, combinations of CD4 count and adherence data appeared useful in identifying patients at very low risk of virologic failure.
Conclusions
Pharmacy refill adherence assessments were as accurate as CD4 counts for detecting current virologic failure in this cohort of patients on cART and have the potential to predict virologic failure before it occurs. Approaches to cART scale-up in resource-limited settings should include an adherence-based monitoring approach.
Analyzing pharmacy and laboratory records from 1,982 patients beginning HIV therapy in southern Africa, Gregory Bisson and colleagues find medication adherence superior to CD4 count changes in identifying treatment failure.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Globally, more than 30 million people are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), the cause of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Combinations of antiretroviral drugs that hold HIV in check (viral suppression) have been available since 1996. Unfortunately, most of the people affected by HIV/AIDS live in developing countries and cannot afford these expensive drugs. As a result, life expectancy has plummeted and economic growth has reversed in these poor countries since the beginning of the AIDS pandemic. Faced with this humanitarian crisis, the lack of access to HIV treatment was declared a global health emergency in 2003. Today, through the concerted efforts of governments, international organizations, and funding bodies, about a quarter of the HIV-positive people in developing and transitional countries who are in immediate need of life-saving, combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) receive the drugs they need.
Why Was This Study Done?
To maximize the benefits of cART, health-care workers in developing countries need simple, affordable ways to monitor viral suppression in their patients—a poor virologic response to cART can lead to the selection of drug-resistant HIV, rapid disease progression, and death. In developed countries, virologic response is monitored by measuring the number of viral particles in patients' blood (viral load) but this technically demanding assay is unavailable in most developing countries. Instead, the World Health Organization recommends that CD4+ T cell (CD4) counts be used to monitor patient responses to cART in resource-limited settings. HIV results in loss of CD4 cells (a type of immune system cell), so a drop in a patient's CD4 count often indicates virologic failure (failure of treatment to suppress the virus). However, falling CD4 counts are often a result of virologic failure and therefore monitoring CD4 counts for drops is unlikely to prevent virologic failure from occurring. Rather, falling CD4 counts are often used only to guide a change to new medicines, which may be even more expensive or difficult to take. On the other hand “adherence lapses”—the failure to take cART regularly—often precede virologic failure, so detecting them early provides an opportunity for improvement in adherence that could prevent virologic failure. Because clinics that dispense cART routinely collect data that can be used to calculate adherence, in this study the researchers investigate whether assessing adherence might provide an alternative, low-cost way to monitor and predict virologic failure among HIV-infected adults on cART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The Aid for AIDS Disease Management Program provides cART to medical insurance fund subscribers in nine countries in southern Africa. Data on claims for antiretroviral drugs made through this program, plus CD4 counts assessed at about 6 or 12 months after initiating cART, and viral load measurements taken within 45 days of a CD4 count, were available for nearly 2,000 HIV-positive adults who had been prescribed a combination of HIV drugs including either efavirenz or nevirapine. The researchers defined adherence as the number of months of cART claims submitted divided by the number of complete months between cART initiation and the last pharmacy refill before a viral load assessment was performed. Virologic failure was defined in two ways: as a viral load of more than 1,000 copies per ml of blood 6 or 12 months after cART initiation, or as a rebound of viral load to similar levels after a previously very low reading (breakthrough viremia). The researchers' statistical analysis of these data shows that at 6 and 12 months after initiation of cART, adherence levels indicated virologic failure more accurately than CD4 count changes. For breakthrough viremia, both measurements were equally accurate. Adherence levels during the first 3 months of cART predicted virologic failure at 6 months as accurately as did CD4 count changes since cART initiation. Finally, the combination of adherence levels and CD4 count changes accurately identified patients at very low risk of virologic failure.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that adherence assessments (based in this study on insurance claims for pharmacy refills) can identify the patients on cART who are at high and low risk of virologic failure at least as accurately as CD4 counts. In addition, they suggest that adherence assessments could be used for early identification of patients at high risk of virologic failure, averting the health impact of treatment failure and the cost of changing to second-line drug regimens. Studies need to be done in other settings (in particular, in public clinics where cART is provided without charge) to confirm the generalizability of these findings. These finding do not change that fact that monitoring CD4 counts plays an important role in deciding when to start cART or indicating when cART is no longer protecting the immune system. But, write the researchers, systematic monitoring of adherence to cART should be considered as an alternative to CD4 count monitoring in patients who are receiving cART in resource-limited settings or as a way to direct the use of viral load testing where feasible.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050109.
This study is discussed further in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by David Bangsberg
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including an article about adherence to antiretroviral therapy
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in Africa and on providing AIDS drug treatment for millions
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to HIV treatment (in several languages) and on its recommendations for antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection in adults and adolescents
The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also provides information on global efforts to deal with the HIV/AIDS pandemic (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050109
PMCID: PMC2386831  PMID: 18494555
17.  Cytomegalovirus Viremia as a Risk Factor for Mortality Prior to Antiretroviral Therapy among HIV-Infected Gold Miners in South Africa 
PLoS ONE  2011;6(10):e25571.
Background
Cytomegalovirus (CMV) viremia has been shown to be an independent risk factor for increased mortality among HIV-infected individuals in the developing world. While CMV infection is nearly ubiquitous in resource-poor settings, few data are available on the role of subclinical CMV reactivation on HIV.
Methods
Using a cohort of mineworkers with stored plasma samples, we investigated the association between CMV DNA concentration and mortality prior to antiretroviral therapy availability.
Results
Among 1341 individuals (median CD4 count 345 cells/µl, 70% WHO stage 1 or 2, median follow-up 0.9 years), 70 (5.2%) had CMV viremia at baseline; 71 deaths occurred. In univariable analysis CMV viremia at baseline was associated with a three-fold increase in mortality (hazard ratio [HR] 3.37; 95% confidence intervals [CI] 1.60, 7.10). After adjustment for CD4 count, WHO stage and HIV viral load (N = 429 with complete data), the association was attenuated (HR 2.27; 95%CI 0.88, 5.83). Mortality increased with higher CMV viremia (≥1,000 copies/ml vs. no viremia, adjusted HR 3.65, 95%CI: 1.29, 10.41). Results were similar using time-updated CMV viremia.
Conclusions
High copy number, subclinical CMV viremia was an independent risk factor for mortality among male HIV-infected adults in South Africa with relatively early HIV disease. Studies to determine whether anti-CMV therapy to mitigate high copy number viremia would increase lifespan are warranted.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0025571
PMCID: PMC3192109  PMID: 22022413
18.  Favorable and Unfavorable HLA Class I Alleles and Haplotypes in Zambians Predominantly Infected with Clade C Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 
Journal of Virology  2002;76(16):8276-8284.
The setpoint of viral RNA concentration (viral load [VL]) during chronic human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) infection reflects a virus-host equilibration closely related to CD8+ cytotoxic T-lymphocyte (CTL) responses, which rely heavily on antigen presentation by the human major histocompatibility complex (MHC) (i.e., HLA) class I molecules. Differences in HIV-1 VL among 259 mostly clade C virus-infected individuals (137 females and 122 males) in the Zambia-UAB HIV Research Project (ZUHRP) were associated with several HLA class I alleles and haplotypes. In particular, general linear model analyses revealed lower log10 VL among those with HLA allele B*57 (P = 0.002 [without correction]) previously implicated in favorable response and in those with HLA B*39 and A*30-Cw*03 (P = 0.002 to 0.016); the same analyses also demonstrated higher log10 VL among individuals with A*02-Cw*16, A*23-B*14, and A*23-Cw*07 (P = 0.010 to 0.033). These HLA effects remained strong (P = 0.0002 to 0.075) after adjustment for age, gender, and duration of infection and persisted across three orders of VL categories (P = 0.001 to 0.084). In contrast, neither B*35 (n = 15) nor B*53 (n = 53) showed a clear disadvantage such as that reported elsewhere for these closely related alleles. Other HLA associations with unusually high (A*68, B*41, B*45, and Cw*16) or low (B*13, Cw*12, and Cw*18) VL were either unstable or reflected their tight linkage respecting disequilibria with other class I variants. The three consistently favorable HLA class I variants retained in multivariable models and in alternative analyses were present in 30.9% of subjects with the lowest (<10,000 copies per ml) and 3.1% of those with the highest (>100,000) VL. Clear differential distribution of HLA profiles according to level of viremia suggests important host genetic contribution to the pattern of immune control and escape during HIV-1 infection.
doi:10.1128/JVI.76.16.8276-8284.2002
PMCID: PMC155130  PMID: 12134033
19.  CD4 Cell Count and the Risk of AIDS or Death in HIV-Infected Adults on Combination Antiretroviral Therapy with a Suppressed Viral Load: A Longitudinal Cohort Study from COHERE 
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(3):e1001194.
Using data from the Collaboration of Observational HIV Epidemiological Research Europe, Jim Young and colleagues show that in successfully treated patients the risk of a new AIDS event or death follows a CD4 cell count gradient in patients with viral suppression.
Background
Most adults infected with HIV achieve viral suppression within a year of starting combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). It is important to understand the risk of AIDS events or death for patients with a suppressed viral load.
Methods and Findings
Using data from the Collaboration of Observational HIV Epidemiological Research Europe (2010 merger), we assessed the risk of a new AIDS-defining event or death in successfully treated patients. We accumulated episodes of viral suppression for each patient while on cART, each episode beginning with the second of two consecutive plasma viral load measurements <50 copies/µl and ending with either a measurement >500 copies/µl, the first of two consecutive measurements between 50–500 copies/µl, cART interruption or administrative censoring. We used stratified multivariate Cox models to estimate the association between time updated CD4 cell count and a new AIDS event or death or death alone. 75,336 patients contributed 104,265 suppression episodes and were suppressed while on cART for a median 2.7 years. The mortality rate was 4.8 per 1,000 years of viral suppression. A higher CD4 cell count was always associated with a reduced risk of a new AIDS event or death; with a hazard ratio per 100 cells/µl (95% CI) of: 0.35 (0.30–0.40) for counts <200 cells/µl, 0.81 (0.71–0.92) for counts 200 to <350 cells/µl, 0.74 (0.66–0.83) for counts 350 to <500 cells/µl, and 0.96 (0.92–0.99) for counts ≥500 cells/µl. A higher CD4 cell count became even more beneficial over time for patients with CD4 cell counts <200 cells/µl.
Conclusions
Despite the low mortality rate, the risk of a new AIDS event or death follows a CD4 cell count gradient in patients with viral suppression. A higher CD4 cell count was associated with the greatest benefit for patients with a CD4 cell count <200 cells/µl but still some slight benefit for those with a CD4 cell count ≥500 cells/µl.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Currently, about 34 million people are infected with HIV and every year nearly 3 million people are newly infected with this virus, which causes AIDS. Most people do not become ill immediately after infection with HIV although some develop a short, flu-like illness (a “seroconversion” illness). The next stage of HIV infection, which may last up to 10 years, also has no major symptoms but, during this stage, HIV slowly destroys immune system cells (including CD4 cells, a type of lymphocyte). Eventually, the immune system can no longer fight off infections by other disease-causing organisms and HIV-positive people then develop one or more AIDS-defining condition(s), including severe but unusual infections, Kaposi sarcoma (a skin cancer), and non-Hodgkin lymphoma (a cancer of the lymph nodes). Many of these AIDS-defining conditions are life-threatening and, in the past, HIV-positive people died on average within 10 years of infection. Nowadays, although there is still no cure for HIV infection, combination antiretroviral therapy (cART; a cocktail of powerful antiretroviral drugs) has turned HIV/AIDS into a chronic, treatable condition, at least in developed countries.
Why Was This Study Done?
Most HIV-positive adults achieve viral suppression within a year of starting cART. That is, the number of copies of the virus in their blood drops to below 50 copies/ml. But what is the likely clinical outcome for patients who achieve viral suppression and what is their risk of developing a new AIDS-defining condition or of dying? For people starting cART for the first time, the number of CD4 cells in the blood when cART is initiated provides a strong indication of an individual's likely clinical outcome. Specifically, people who start cART when they have a high CD4 cell count tend to do better than people who start treatment when they have a low CD4 cell count. In this study, the researchers use data collected by the Collaboration of Observational HIV Epidemiological Research in Europe (COHERE) to estimate the association between CD4 cell count and progression to a new AIDS-defining event or death among patients who have achieved viral suppression while on cART.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers identified more than 75,000 patients in the COHERE database who, between them, had had more than 104,000 episodes (periods) of viral suppression while on cART and who had had their CD4 cell count determined shortly before or during their viral suppression episodes. The researchers then used stratified multivariate Cox models (a type of statistical analysis method) to estimate the association between CD4 cell counts and the occurrence of a new AIDS-defining event or death. Among the patients included in the study, the mortality (death) rate was 4.8 per 1,000 years of viral suppression. The highest rates of new AIDS-defining events or death were seen in those patients with less than 50 CD4 cells/µl blood and a higher CD4 cell count was associated with a reduced risk of a new AIDS-defining event or death. Finally, among those patients with a CD4 cell count below 200 cells/µl, the risk of progression decreased over time for those patients with higher CD4 cell counts.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that, although new AIDS-defining events and death are uncommon among patients whose viral load is suppressed by cART, the risk of a new AIDS-defining event or death follows a CD4 cell count gradient with the patients with the highest CD4 cell counts having the lowest risk of a new AIDS-defining event or death. The findings also suggest that higher CD4 cell counts provide the greatest benefit for patients with a CD4 cell count below 200 cells/µl blood. These findings have two main clinical implications. First, they add to the evidence that suggests that, to facilitate immune system recovery, cART should be started when a patient's CD4 cell count is between 350 and 500 cells/µl blood, the current recommended range for cART initiation. Unfortunately, most patients in resource-limited settings only start cART when their CD4 cell count is below 200 cells/µl. Second, these findings suggest that patients with sustained viral suppression but low CD4 cell counts should be monitored regularly to ensure that any life-threatening AIDS-defining events are dealt with quickly and effectively.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001194.
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and infectious diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
NAM/aidsmap provides basic information about HIV/AIDS, and summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information on HIV treatment and care (in English and Spanish)
The World Health Organization's 2010 antiretroviral therapy guidelines provide recommendations on when to initiate cART
Information about COHERE is available
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert and through the charity website Healthtalkonline
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001194
PMCID: PMC3308938  PMID: 22448150
20.  Public-Health and Individual Approaches to Antiretroviral Therapy: Township South Africa and Switzerland Compared 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(7):e148.
Background
The provision of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) in resource-limited settings follows a public health approach, which is characterised by a limited number of regimens and the standardisation of clinical and laboratory monitoring. In industrialized countries doctors prescribe from the full range of available antiretroviral drugs, supported by resistance testing and frequent laboratory monitoring. We compared virologic response, changes to first-line regimens, and mortality in HIV-infected patients starting HAART in South Africa and Switzerland.
Methods and Findings
We analysed data from the Swiss HIV Cohort Study and two HAART programmes in townships of Cape Town, South Africa. We included treatment-naïve patients aged 16 y or older who had started treatment with at least three drugs since 2001, and excluded intravenous drug users. Data from a total of 2,348 patients from South Africa and 1,016 patients from the Swiss HIV Cohort Study were analysed. Median baseline CD4+ T cell counts were 80 cells/μl in South Africa and 204 cells/μl in Switzerland. In South Africa, patients started with one of four first-line regimens, which was subsequently changed in 514 patients (22%). In Switzerland, 36 first-line regimens were used initially, and these were changed in 539 patients (53%). In most patients HIV-1 RNA was suppressed to 500 copies/ml or less within one year: 96% (95% confidence interval [CI] 95%–97%) in South Africa and 96% (94%–97%) in Switzerland, and 26% (22%–29%) and 27% (24%–31%), respectively, developed viral rebound within two years. Mortality was higher in South Africa than in Switzerland during the first months of HAART: adjusted hazard ratios were 5.90 (95% CI 1.81–19.2) during months 1–3 and 1.77 (0.90–3.50) during months 4–24.
Conclusions
Compared to the highly individualised approach in Switzerland, programmatic HAART in South Africa resulted in similar virologic outcomes, with relatively few changes to initial regimens. Further innovation and resources are required in South Africa to both achieve more timely access to HAART and improve the prognosis of patients who start HAART with advanced disease.
Comparing HIV treatment in Switzerland, where drug selection is individualized, and South Africa, where a programmatic approach is used, Matthias Egger and colleagues find similar virologic outcomes over two years.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since the first reported case in 1981, and more than 30 million people are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS. HIV destroys immune system cells (including CD4 cells, a type of lymphocyte), leaving infected individuals susceptible to other infections. Early in the AIDS epidemic, most HIV-infected people died within 10 years of becoming infected. Then, in 1996, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)—a combination of several antiretroviral drugs—was developed. Now, in resource-rich countries, clinicians provide individually tailored care for HIV-infected people by prescribing combinations of antiretroviral drugs chosen from more than 20 approved medicines. The approach to treatment of HIV in developed countries typically also includes frequent monitoring of the amount of virus in patients' blood (viral load), viral resistance testing (to see whether any viruses are resistant to specific antiretroviral drugs), and regular CD4 cell counts (an indication of immune-system health). Since the implementation of these interventions, the health and life expectancy of people with HIV has improved dramatically in these countries.
Why Was This Study Done?
The history of HIV care in resource-poor countries has been very different. Initially, these countries could not afford to provide HAART for their populations. In 2003, however, governments, international agencies, and funding bodies began to implement plans to increase HAART coverage in developing countries. By December 2006, more than a quarter of the HIV-infected people in low- and middle-income countries who urgently needed treatment were receiving HAART. However, instead of individualized treatment, HAART programs in developing countries follow a public-health approach developed by the World Health Organization. That is, drug regimens, clinical decision-making, and clinical and laboratory monitoring are all standardized. This public-health approach takes into account the realities of under-resourced health systems, but is it as effective as the individualized approach? The researchers addressed this question by comparing virologic responses (the effect of treatment on the viral load), changes to first-line (initial) therapy, and deaths in patients receiving HAART in South Africa (public-health approach) and in Switzerland (individualized approach).
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers analyzed data collected since 2001 from more than 2,000 patients enrolled in HAART programs in two townships (Gugulethu and Khayelitsha) in Cape Town, South Africa, and from more than 1,000 patients enrolled in the Swiss HIV Cohort Study, a nationwide study of HIV-infected people. The patients in South Africa, who had a lower starting CD4 cell count and were more likely to have advanced AIDS than the patients in Switzerland, started their treatment for HIV infection with one of four first-line therapies, and about a quarter changed to a second-line therapy during the study. By contrast, 36 first-line regimens were used in Switzerland and half the patients changed to a different regimen. Despite these differences, the viral load was greatly reduced within a year in virtually all the patients and viral rebound (an increased viral load after a low measurement) developed within 2 years in a quarter of the patients in both countries. However, more patients died in South Africa than in Switzerland, particularly during the first 3 months of therapy.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that the public-health approach to HAART practiced in South Africa is as effective in terms of virologic outcomes as the individualized approach practiced in Switzerland. This is reassuring because it suggests that “antiretroviral anarchy” (the unregulated use of antiretroviral drugs, interruptions in drug supplies, and the lack of treatment monitoring), which is likely to lead to the emergence of viral resistance, is not happening in South Africa as some experts feared it might. Thus, these findings support the continued rollout of the public-health approach to HAART in resource-poor countries. Conversely, they also suggest that a more standardized approach to HAART could be taken in Switzerland (and in other industrialized countries) without compromising its effectiveness. Finally, the higher mortality in South Africa than in Switzerland, which partly reflects the many patients in South Africa in desperate need of HAART and their more advanced disease at the start of therapy, suggests that HIV-infected patients in South Africa and in other resource-limited countries would benefit from earlier initiation of therapy.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050148.
The World Health Organization provides information about universal access to HIV treatment (in several languages) and on its recommendations for a public-health approach to antiretroviral therapy for HIV infection
More details on the Swiss HIV Cohort Study and on the studies in Gugulethu and Khayelitsha are available
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including detailed information about antiretroviral therapy and links to treatment guidelines for various countries
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS around the world and on providing AIDS drug treatment for millions
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050148
PMCID: PMC2443185  PMID: 18613745
21.  Prevalence and risk factors for cervical squamous intraepithelial lesions among women infected with HIV-1 in Makurdi, Nigeria 
Background
The purpose of this study was to determine the prevalence and risk factors for cervical squamous intraepithelial lesions (SIL) among women infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) receiving care at the Federal Medical Center Makurdi, Nigeria.
Methods
Between March and December 2009, a total of 253 women infected with HIV-1 had cervical smears taken for cytology. HIV-1 RNA viral load and CD4 counts were also measured.
Results
Of the 253 women, cervical SIL were present in 45 (17.8%). However, abnormal cervical cytology was noted in 146 (57.7%). Of those with abnormal cervical cytology, 101 (39.9%) women had atypical squamous cells of undetermined significance, 16 (6.3%) had low-grade SIL, and 29 (11.5%) women had high-grade SIL. The median CD4 lymphocyte count was lower in participants with cervical SIL compared with those without (132 versus 184 cells/mm3; P = 0.03). The median HIV-1 RNA viral load was higher in women with cervical SIL (102,705 versus 64,391 copies/mL; P = 0.02). A CD4 lymphocyte count of <200 cells/mm3 and an HIV-1 RNA viral load of <10,000 copies/mL were found to be significantly associated with cervical SIL.
Conclusion
A high prevalence of cervical SIL was found among HIV-1-infected women in Makurdi, Nigeria. Increased immune suppression and HIV-1 viremia are significantly associated with cervical SIL.
doi:10.2147/IJWH.S21205
PMCID: PMC3292404  PMID: 22393304
cervical squamous intraepithelial lesions; human immunodeficiency virus; risk factors; immunosuppression; cervical dysplasia; Nigeria
22.  Causes of Acute Hospitalization in Adolescence: Burden and Spectrum of HIV-Related Morbidity in a Country with an Early-Onset and Severe HIV Epidemic: A Prospective Survey 
PLoS Medicine  2010;7(2):e1000178.
Rashida Ferrand and colleagues show that HIV infection is the commonest cause of hospitalization among adolescents in a high HIV prevalence setting.
Background
Survival to older childhood with untreated, vertically acquired HIV infection, which was previously considered extremely unusual, is increasingly well described. However, the overall impact on adolescent health in settings with high HIV seroprevalence has not previously been investigated.
Methods and Findings
Adolescents (aged 10–18 y) systematically recruited from acute admissions to the two public hospitals in Harare, Zimbabwe, answered a questionnaire and underwent standard investigations including HIV testing, with consent. Pre-set case-definitions defined cause of admission and underlying chronic conditions. Participation was 94%. 139 (46%) of 301 participants were HIV-positive (median age of diagnosis 12 y: interquartile range [IQR] 11–14 y), median CD4 count = 151; IQR 57–328 cells/µl), but only four (1.3%) were herpes simplex virus-2 (HSV-2) positive. Age (median 13 y: IQR 11–16 y) and sex (57% male) did not differ by HIV status, but HIV-infected participants were significantly more likely to be stunted (z-score<−2: 52% versus 23%, p<0.001), have pubertal delay (15% versus 2%, p<0.001), and be maternal orphans or have an HIV-infected mother (73% versus 17%, p<0.001). 69% of HIV-positive and 19% of HIV-negative admissions were for infections, most commonly tuberculosis and pneumonia. 84 (28%) participants had underlying heart, lung, or other chronic diseases. Case fatality rates were significantly higher for HIV-related admissions (22% versus 7%, p<0.001), and significantly associated with advanced HIV, pubertal immaturity, and chronic conditions.
Conclusion
HIV is the commonest cause of adolescent hospitalisation in Harare, mainly due to adult-spectrum opportunistic infections plus a high burden of chronic complications of paediatric HIV/AIDS. Low HSV-2 prevalence and high maternal orphanhood rates provide further evidence of long-term survival following mother-to-child transmission. Better recognition of this growing phenomenon is needed to promote earlier HIV diagnosis and care.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) has killed more than 25 million people since 1981, and more than 30 million people are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes AIDS. HIV destroys the cells in the immune system that normally provide protection against disease-causing organisms. Consequently, people infected with HIV are susceptible to so-called opportunistic infections, including tuberculosis and pneumonia. HIV is most commonly spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner but another major route of transmission is mother-to-child (vertical transmission) during pregnancy or delivery or during breast feeding. Mother-to-child transmission can be prevented by giving antiviral drugs to HIV-positive mothers during their pregnancy and to their newborn children. But, although most mothers in developed countries have access to this intervention, fewer than half of HIV-positive mothers in low- and middle-income countries receive this treatment and, every year, nearly half a million children become infected with HIV.
Why Was This Study Done?
It is generally thought that HIV infections in infants progress rapidly and that half of the children who acquire HIV from their mothers will die before their second birthday if not treated with antiretroviral drugs. However, as the AIDS epidemic matures, more children are surviving to adolescence with untreated, vertically acquired HIV infection in sub-Saharan Africa, the region where most children with HIV/AIDS live. Little is known about the burden of HIV infection and its contribution to illness and death in adolescents in sub-Saharan Africa but this information is needed to help health care providers prepare for this new aspect of the AIDS epidemic. In this study, the researchers examine the causes of acute hospital admissions (admissions for conditions with a sudden onset and usually a short course) among adolescents in Zimbabwe, a country where the HIV epidemic started early and where one in seven adults is HIV-positive and more than 17,000 children are infected with HIV every year, mainly through vertical transmission.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers recruited 301 10–18-year olds who were admitted to each of the two public hospitals in Harare (Zimbabwe) for acute illnesses between September 2007 and April 2008. Each patient completed a questionnaire about themselves and their health and underwent standard investigations, including HIV testing. Nearly half the participants were HIV positive; about a quarter of these HIV-positive individuals only found out about their status during the study. HIV-positive participants were more likely to be stunted, to have pubertal delay, and to be maternal orphans or have an HIV-infected mother than HIV-negative participants. 69% of HIV-positive participants were admitted to hospital because of infections, often tuberculosis or pneumonia whereas only 19% of the HIV-negative participants were admitted for infections. More than a quarter of all the participants had underlying heart, lung, or other chronic conditions. Finally, 22% of the HIV-positive participants died while in hospital compared to only 7% of the HIV-negative participants. Factors that increased the risk of death among all the participants were advanced HIV infection, pubertal immaturity, and chronic conditions.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that HIV infection is the commonest cause of acute adolescent admission to hospital in Harare (and probably elsewhere in Zimbabwe). Most of these admissions are due to opportunistic infections similar to those seen in HIV-positive adults and to long-term complications of having HIV/AIDS as an infant such as delayed puberty. Other findings indicate that most of the HIV-positive adolescents who participated in this study were infected via vertical transmission, which supports the idea that long-term survival after vertical infection is possible. Because the AIDS epidemic started early in Zimbabwe, there is likely to be a lag before adolescent survivors of vertical HIV transmission become common elsewhere. Nevertheless, all African countries and other places where HIV infection in adults is common need to recognize that the burden of HIV in their acutely unwell adolescents is likely to increase over the next few years. To deal with this emerging aspect of the AIDS epidemic, measures must be introduced to ensure early diagnosis of HIV in this previously neglected age group so that treatment can be started before HIV-positive adolescents become critically ill.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1000178.
This study is further discussed in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Glenda Gray
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including a list of articles and other sources of information about the primary care of adolescents with HIV
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on the HIV and AIDS in Zimbabwe, and on children, HIV, and AIDS (in English and Spanish)
UNICEF also has information about children and HIV and AIDS (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000178
PMCID: PMC2814826  PMID: 20126383
23.  Rates of cardiovascular events and deaths are associated with advanced stages of HIV-infection: results of the HIV HEART study 7, 5 year follow-up 
Journal of the International AIDS Society  2014;17(4Suppl 3):19542.
Introduction
Cardiovascular diseases are increasing in aging HIV-positive patients (HIV+). Impact of traditional cardiovascular risk factors, HIV-specific parameters and antiretroviral therapy (ART) on the incidence of cardiovascular events (CVE) and on the mortality rate are investigated in different HIV+ cohorts.
Methods
The HIV HEART (HIVH) study is an ongoing prospective observational cohort study in the German Ruhr area to assess the frequency and clinical course of cardiac disorders in 1481 HIV+ by standardized non-invasive cardiovascular screening. CVE were defined as diagnosed or documented myocardial infarction, coronary heart disease, arterial coronary intervention, stent implantation, bypass operation and stroke.
Results
1481 HIV+ subjects (mean age: 49.3±10.7 years (y), female: 15.6%) were included. 130 CVE and 90 deaths were documented until the end of 7, 5 year follow-up of HIVH. Mean duration of the HIV-infection was 12.9±6.8 y. HIV+ were treated with ART on average for 8.6±6.8 y. According to the CDC classification of the HIV-infection, HIV+ were distributed over the clinical categories (A:34.6%; B:31.4% and C:33.9%) while more than the half had an advanced immunodeficiency (I:8.3%; II:41.1%; III:50.7%). Advanced clinical and immunological stages were significantly (p<0.001) associated with higher incidences of deaths (A:16.7%; B:26.7%; C:56.7% and I:6.7%; II:27.7%; III:65.6%) and CVE (A:17.7%; B:33.1%; C:49.2% and I:3.1%; II:32.3%; III:64.6%) but not with the duration of HIV-infection (per y: Hazard ratio (HR): 0.91 [0.88–0.94]) and ART (per y: HR: 0.81 [0.79–0.84]) adjusted for age. The proportion of deceased HIV+ with HIV-RNA ≥50 copies/mL and lower CD4-cell counts at their last visit is significantly higher compared with living HIV+ without CVE (HIV-RNA ≥50 copies/mL: 25.6% vs 14.7%). Median CD4-cells: 286.5 cells/µL (IQR: 168.8–482.8) versus 574 cells/µL (IQR: 406–786). 96.1% of the living HIV+ with CVE had HIV-RNA<50 copies/mL and median CD4-cells 542.5 cells/µL (IQR: 370–793.5).
Conclusions
Advanced clinical and immunological stages of HIV-infection, but not the duration of ART, were associated with higher incidences of CVE and deaths in the HIVH cohort. These observations support an earlier initiation of ART in HIV+. Special cardiovascular risk calculations for HIV+ should consider immunological and clinical categories of the HIV-infection.
doi:10.7448/IAS.17.4.19542
PMCID: PMC4224778  PMID: 25394050
24.  Triple-Antiretroviral Prophylaxis to Prevent Mother-To-Child HIV Transmission through Breastfeeding—The Kisumu Breastfeeding Study, Kenya: A Clinical Trial 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1001015.
Timothy Thomas and colleagues report the results of the Kisumu breastfeeding study (Kenya), a single-arm trial that assessed the feasibility and safety of a triple-antiretroviral regimen to suppress maternal HIV load in late pregnancy.
Background
Effective strategies are needed for the prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) in resource-limited settings. The Kisumu Breastfeeding Study was a single-arm open label trial conducted between July 2003 and February 2009. The overall aim was to investigate whether a maternal triple-antiretroviral regimen that was designed to maximally suppress viral load in late pregnancy and the first 6 mo of lactation was a safe, well-tolerated, and effective PMTCT intervention.
Methods and Findings
HIV-infected pregnant women took zidovudine, lamivudine, and either nevirapine or nelfinavir from 34–36 weeks' gestation to 6 mo post partum. Infants received single-dose nevirapine at birth. Women were advised to breastfeed exclusively and wean rapidly just before 6 mo. Using Kaplan-Meier methods we estimated HIV-transmission and death rates from delivery to 24 mo. We compared HIV-transmission rates among subgroups defined by maternal risk factors, including baseline CD4 cell count and viral load.
Among 487 live-born, singleton, or first-born infants, cumulative HIV-transmission rates at birth, 6 weeks, and 6, 12, and 24 mo were 2.5%, 4.2%, 5.0%, 5.7%, and 7.0%, respectively. The 24-mo HIV-transmission rates stratified by baseline maternal CD4 cell count <500 and ≥500 cells/mm3 were 8.4% (95% confidence interval [CI] 5.8%–12.0%) and 4.1% (1.8%–8.8%), respectively (p = 0.06); the corresponding rates stratified by baseline maternal viral load <10,000 and ≥10,000 copies/ml were 3.0% (1.1%–7.8%) and 8.7% (6.1%–12.3%), respectively (p = 0.01). None of the 12 maternal and 51 infant deaths (including two second-born infants) were attributed to antiretrovirals. The cumulative HIV-transmission or death rate at 24 mo was 15.7% (95% CI 12.7%–19.4%).
Conclusions
This trial shows that a maternal triple-antiretroviral regimen from late pregnancy through 6 months of breastfeeding for PMTCT is safe and feasible in a resource-limited setting. These findings are consistent with those from other trials using maternal triple-antiretroviral regimens during breastfeeding in comparable settings.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00146380
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year, about half a million children become infected with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Nearly all these newly infected children live in resource-limited countries and most acquire HIV from their mother, so-called mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). Without intervention, 25%–50% of babies born to HIV-positive mothers become infected with HIV during pregnancy, delivery, or breastfeeding. This infection rate can be reduced by treating mother and child with antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. A single dose of nevirapine (a “non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor” or NNRTI) given to the mother at the start of labor and to her baby soon after birth nearly halves the risk of MTCT. Further reductions in risk can be achieved by giving mother and baby three ARVs—an NNRTI and two nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs such as zidovudine and lamivudine)—during pregnancy and perinatally (around the time of birth).
Why Was This Study Done?
Breastfeeding is crucial for child survival in poor countries but it is also responsible for up to half of MTCT. Consequently, many researchers are investigating how various ARV regimens given to mothers and/or their infants during the first few months of life as well as during pregnancy and perinatally affect MTCT. In this single-arm trial, the researchers assess the feasibility and safety of using a triple-ARV regimen to suppress the maternal HIV load (amount of virus in the blood) from late pregnancy though 6 months of breastfeeding among HIV-positive women in Kisumu, Kenya, and ask whether this approach achieves a lower HIV transmission rate than other ARV regimens that have been tested in resource-limited settings. In a single-arm trial, all the participants are given the same treatment. By contrast, in a “randomized controlled” trial, half the participants chosen at random are given the treatment under investigation and the rest are given a control treatment. A randomized controlled trial provides a better comparison of treatments than a single-arm trial but is more costly.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In the Kisumu Breastfeeding Study (KiBS), HIV-infected pregnant women took a triple-ARV regimen containing zidovudine and lamivudine and either nevirapine or the protease inhibitor nelfinavir from 34–36 weeks of pregnancy to 6 months after delivery. They were advised to breastfeed their babies (who received single-dose nevirapine at birth), and to wean them rapidly just before 6 months. The researchers then used Kaplan-Meier statistical methods to estimate HIV transmission and death rates among 487 live-born infants from delivery to 24 months. The cumulative HIV transmission rate rose from 2.5% at birth to 7.0% at 24 months. The cumulative HIV transmission or death rate at 24 months was 15.7%; no infant deaths were attributed to ARVs. At 24 months, 3.0% of babies born to mothers with a low viral load were HIV positive compared to 8.7% of babies born to mothers with a high viral load, a statistically significant difference. Similarly, at 24 months, 8.4% of babies born to mothers with low baseline CD4 cell counts (CD4 cells are immune system cells that are killed by HIV; CD4 cell counts indicate the level of HIV-inflicted immune system damage) were HIV positive compared to 4.1% of babies born to mothers with high baseline CD4 cell counts, although this difference did not achieve statistical significance.
What Do These Findings Mean?
Although these findings are limited by the single-arm design, they support the idea that giving breastfeeding women a triple-ARV regimen from late pregnancy to 6 months is a safe, feasible way to reduce MTCT in resource-limited settings. The HIV transmission rates in this study are comparable to those recorded in similar trials in other resource-limited settings and are lower than MTCT rates observed previously in Kisumu in a study in which no ARVs were used. Importantly, the KiBS mothers took most of the ARVs they were prescribed and most stopped breastfeeding by 6 months as advised. The intense follow-up employed in KiBS may be partly responsible for this good adherence to the trial protocol and thus this study's findings may not be generalizable to all resource-limited settings. Nevertheless, they suggest that a simple triple-ARV regimen given to HIV-positive pregnant women regardless of their baseline CD4 cell count can reduce MTCT during pregnancy and breastfeeding in resource-limited setting.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001015.
The accompanying PLoS Medicine Research article by Zeh and colleagues describes the emergence of resistance to ARVs in KiBS
Information on HIV and AIDS is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on children, HIV, and AIDS and on preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV (in English and Spanish)
UNICEF also has information about children and HIV and AIDS (in several languages)
The World Health organization has information on mother-to-child transmission of HIV http://www.who.int/hiv/topics/mtct/en/index.html (in several languages)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001015
PMCID: PMC3066129  PMID: 21468300
25.  Relationship between innate immunity, soluble markers and metabolic-clinical parameters in HIV+ patients ART treated with HIV-RNA<50 cp/mL 
Journal of the International AIDS Society  2014;17(4Suppl 3):19718.
Introduction
The persistence of immune activation and inflammation in HIV patients with HIV-RNA (VL) undetectable causes many co-morbidities [1–3]. The aim of this study is to correlate monocytes (m) and NK cell activation levels, soluble markers and oxidative stress with clinical, biochemical and metabolic data in HIV-1 infected patients with VL≤50 copies (cp)/mL on antiretroviral therapy.
Materials and Methods
Multicentre, cross-sectional study in patients with VL≤50 cp/mL and on antiretroviral therapy by at least six months. We studied: activation/homing markers (CD38, HLA-DR, CCR-2, PDL-1) on inflammatory, intermediate, proinflammatory m; activatory receptors NKp30, NKp46 and HLA-DR on NK cells; soluble inflammatory (sCD14, adiponectina, MCP-1) and stress oxidative markers (dRoms, antiRoms). Univariate analyses are performed with non-parametric and Pearson tests. The significant correlations were adjusted for possible known confounding factors (smoking, Cytomegalovirus IgG serology, Raltegravir, Protease Inhibitor [PI] therapy and HCV-RNA) with multivariate analysis.
Results
In the 68 patients the positive correlation between age and antiRoms was significant also after adjustment for PI use (p=0.05). The% CD8+T was associated with% proinflammatory m (p=0.043) and with their expression of CCR2 mean fluorescence intensity (MFI) (p=0.012). The% NKp46+ was positively correlated with CD4+T count (p=0.001). The fibrinogen was positively associated with dRoms (p=0.052) and the positive correlation between triglycerides and antiRoms has been confirmed (p<0.001); the impact of antiRoms on HDL/triglycerides ratio (p=0.006) was observed after adjustment for PI use. The BMI was associated with smoking (p=0.011). Only the maraviroc-treated patients showed minimal arterial pressure, fibrinogen and antiRoms lower (p=0.001, 0.004 e 0.006) and sCD14 values higher (p=0.029).
Conclusions
Patients with long history of HIV infection and stable immunological and virological status showed interactions between acquired and innate immunity activation; moreover, the levels of some metabolic and inflammatory parameters correlate with oxidative stress values and innate immunity activation. The age, BMI and smoking impact metabolic and immunological parameters. The correlations between antiretroviral drugs and clinical-immunological parameters need further confirmations.
doi:10.7448/IAS.17.4.19718
PMCID: PMC4225419  PMID: 25397464

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