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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.  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
3.  Evidence of Persistent Low-level Viremia in Long-term HAART-suppressed, HIV-Infected Individuals 
AIDS (London, England)  2010;24(16):2535-2539.
Background
Highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) can effectively reduce plasma HIV RNA levels to below the level of detection in most HIV-infected patients. The degree to which residual low-level viremia persists during HAART remains unclear.
Methods
We identified 180 subjects (median duration of HIV infection 12 years) who had ≥2 consecutive plasma HIV-1 RNA levels below the level of detection (<50-75 copies/mL) while taking antiretroviral drugs; 36/180 had been virologically suppressed for >5 years. Longitudinal plasma samples that were taken from these subjects during periods of viral load suppression were selected and analyzed. The isothermal Transcription Mediated Amplification (TMA) (limit of detection <3.5 copies RNA/mL) assay was used to measure persistent viremia. A “detuned” EIA assay was used to obtain quantitative HIV antibody levels.
Results
A total of 1606 TMA assays were performed on 438 specimens in 180 HAART-suppressed subjects (median 3 replicates per specimen). In the first year of viral suppression, plasma RNA levels declined significantly (p=0.001), but after month 12 there was no evidence for a continued decline (p=0.383). In the first year of viral suppression, HIV antibody levels also declined (p=0.054), but after month 12 there was no evidence for a continued decline (p=0.988).
Conclusions
Viremia continued to decline during the first 12 months after viremia became undetectable using conventional methods, and then remained stable. HIV antibody levels also decreased in the first year of viral suppression and then remained stable. Viremia and the HIV-associated host response appear to achieve a steady-state “set-point” during long-term combination therapy.
doi:10.1097/QAD.0b013e32833dba03
PMCID: PMC2954261  PMID: 20651585
Residual viremia; HAART-suppressed; HIV antibody levels
4.  Impact of Round-the-Clock, Rapid Oral Fluid HIV Testing of Women in Labor in Rural India 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e92.
Background
Testing pregnant women for HIV at the time of labor and delivery is the last opportunity for prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) measures, particularly in settings where women do not receive adequate antenatal care. However, HIV testing and counseling of pregnant women in labor is a challenge, especially in resource-constrained settings. In India, many rural women present for delivery without any prior antenatal care. Those who do get antenatal care are not always tested for HIV, because of deficiencies in the provision of HIV testing and counseling services. In this context, we investigated the impact of introducing round-the-clock, rapid, point-of-care HIV testing and counseling in a busy labor ward at a tertiary care hospital in rural India.
Methods and Findings
After they provided written informed consent, women admitted to the labor ward of a rural teaching hospital in India were offered two rapid tests on oral fluid and finger-stick specimens (OraQuick Rapid HIV-1/HIV-2 tests, OraSure Technologies). Simultaneously, venous blood was drawn for conventional HIV ELISA testing. Western blot tests were performed for confirmatory testing if women were positive by both rapid tests and dual ELISA, or where test results were discordant. Round-the-clock (24 h, 7 d/wk) abbreviated prepartum and extended postpartum counseling sessions were offered as part of the testing strategy. HIV-positive women were administered PMTCT interventions. Of 1,252 eligible women (age range 18 y to 38 y) approached for consent over a 9 mo period in 2006, 1,222 (98%) accepted HIV testing in the labor ward. Of these, 1,003 (82%) women presented with either no reports or incomplete reports of prior HIV testing results at the time of admission to the labor ward. Of 1,222 women, 15 were diagnosed as HIV-positive (on the basis of two rapid tests, dual ELISA and Western blot), yielding a seroprevalence of 1.23% (95% confidence interval [CI] 0.61%–1.8%). Of the 15 HIV test–positive women, four (27%) had presented with reported HIV status, and 11 (73%) new cases of HIV infection were detected due to rapid testing in the labor room. Thus, 11 HIV-positive women received PMTCT interventions on account of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing and counseling in the labor room. While both OraQuick tests (oral and finger-stick) were 100% specific, one false-negative result was documented (with both oral fluid and finger-stick specimens). Of the 15 HIV-infected women who delivered, 13 infants were HIV seronegative at birth and at 1 and 4 mo after delivery; two HIV-positive infants died within a month of delivery.
Conclusions
In a busy rural labor ward setting in India, we demonstrated that it is feasible to introduce a program of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing, including prepartum and extended postpartum counseling sessions. Our data suggest that the availability of round-the-clock rapid HIV testing resulted in successful documentation of HIV serostatus in a large proportion (82%) of rural women who were unaware of their HIV status when admitted to the labor room. In addition, 11 (73%) of a total of 15 HIV-positive women received PMTCT interventions because of round-the-clock rapid testing in the labor ward. These findings are relevant for PMTCT programs in developing countries.
Nitika Pant Pai and colleagues report the results of offering a round-the-clock rapid HIV testing program in a rural labor ward setting in India.
Editors' Summary
Background.
Since the first reported case of AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in 1981, the number of people infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS, has risen steadily. Now, more than 33 million people are infected, almost half of them women. HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner, but mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV is also an important transmission route. HIV-positive women often pass the virus to their babies during pregnancy, labor and delivery, and breastfeeding, if nothing is done to prevent viral transmission. In developed countries, interventions such as voluntary testing and counseling, safe delivery practices (for example, offering cesarean delivery to HIV-positive women), and antiretroviral treatment of the mother during pregnancy and labor and of her newborn baby have minimized the risk of MTCT. In developing countries, the prevention of MTCT (PMTCT) is much less effective, in part because pregnant women often do not know their HIV status. Consequently, in 2007, nearly half a million children became infected with HIV mainly through MTCT.
Why Was This Study Done?
In many developing countries, women do not receive adequate antenatal care. In India, for example, nearly half the women living in rural areas do not receive any antenatal care until they are in labor. This gives health care providers very little time in which to counsel women about HIV infection, test them for the virus, and start interventions to prevent MTCT. Furthermore, testing pregnant women in labor for HIV and counseling them is a challenge, particularly where resources are limited. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate the feasibility and impact of introducing round-the-clock, rapid HIV testing and counseling in a busy labor ward in a rural teaching hospital in Sevagram, India.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
Women admitted to the labor ward between January and September 2006 were offered two rapid HIV tests—one that used a saliva sample and the other that used blood taken from a finger prick. Blood was also taken from a vein for conventional HIV testing. All the women were given a 15-minute counseling session about how HIV is transmitted, the importance of HIV testing, and information on PMTCT before their child was born (prepartum counseling), and a longer postpartum counseling session. HIV-positive women were given a cesarean delivery where possible and antiretroviral drug treatment to reduce MTCT. 1,222 women admitted to the labor ward during the study period (1,003 of whom did not know their HIV status) accepted HIV testing. Of 15 study participants who were HIV positive, 11 learnt of their HIV status in the labor room. Two babies born to these HIV-positive women were HIV positive and died within a month of delivery; the other 13 babies were HIV negative at birth and at 1 and 4 months after delivery. Finally, the rapid HIV tests missed only one HIV-positive woman (no false-positive results were given), and the time from enrolling a woman into the study through referring her for PMTCT intervention where necessary averaged 40–60 minutes.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings show the feasibility and positive impact of the introduction of round-the-clock pre- and postpartum HIV counseling and rapid HIV testing into a busy rural Indian labor ward. Few of the women entering this ward knew their HIV status previously but the introduction of these facilities in this setting successfully informed these women of their HIV status. In addition, the round-the-clock counseling and testing led to 11 women and their babies receiving PMTCT interventions who would otherwise have been missed. These findings need to be confirmed in other settings and the cost-effectiveness and sustainability of this approach for the improvement of PMTCT in developing countries needs to be investigated. Nevertheless, these findings suggest that round-the-clock rapid HIV testing might be an effective and acceptable way to reduce MTCT of HIV in many developing countries.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050092.
Read a related PLoS Medicine Perspective article
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS and on HIV infection in women
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS
Women, Children, and HIV provides extensive information on the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV in developing countries
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, on HIV and AIDS in India, on women, HIV, and AIDS, and on HIV and AIDS prevention, including the prevention of mother-to-child transmission
AIDSinfo, a service of the US Department of Health and Human Services provides health information for HIV-positive pregnant women (in English and Spanish)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050092
PMCID: PMC2365974  PMID: 18462011
5.  HIV-1 Drug Resistance Emergence among Breastfeeding Infants Born to HIV-Infected Mothers during a Single-Arm Trial of Triple-Antiretroviral Prophylaxis for Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission: A Secondary Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2011;8(3):e1000430.
Analysis of a substudy of the Kisumu breastfeeding trial by Clement Zeh and colleagues reveals the emergence of HIV drug resistance in HIV-positive infants born to HIV-infected mothers treated with antiretroviral drugs.
Background
Nevirapine and lamivudine given to mothers are transmitted to infants via breastfeeding in quantities sufficient to have biologic effects on the virus; this may lead to an increased risk of a breastfed infant's development of resistance to maternal antiretrovirals. The Kisumu Breastfeeding Study (KiBS), a single-arm open-label prevention of mother-to-child HIV transmission (PMTCT) trial, assessed the safety and efficacy of zidovudine, lamivudine, and either nevirapine or nelfinavir given to HIV-infected women from 34 wk gestation through 6 mo of breastfeeding. Here, we present findings from a KiBS trial secondary analysis that evaluated the emergence of maternal ARV-associated resistance among 32 HIV-infected breastfed infants.
Methods and Findings
All infants in the cohort were tested for HIV infection using DNA PCR at multiple study visits during the 24 mo of the study, and plasma RNA viral load for all HIV-PCR–positive infants was evaluated retrospectively. Specimens from mothers and infants with viral load >1,000 copies/ml were tested for HIV drug resistance mutations. Overall, 32 infants were HIV infected by 24 mo of age, and of this group, 24 (75%) infants were HIV infected by 6 mo of age. Of the 24 infants infected by 6 mo, nine were born to mothers on a nelfinavir-based regimen, whereas the remaining 15 were born to mothers on a nevirapine-based regimen. All infants were also given single-dose nevirapine within 48 hours of birth. We detected genotypic resistance mutations in none of eight infants who were HIV-PCR positive by 2 wk of age (specimens from six infants were not amplifiable), for 30% (6/20) at 6 wk, 63% (14/22) positive at 14 wk, and 67% (16/24) at 6 mo post partum. Among the 16 infants with resistance mutations by 6 mo post partum, the common mutations were M184V and K103N, conferring resistance to lamivudine and nevirapine, respectively. Genotypic resistance was detected among 9/9 (100%) and 7/15 (47%) infected infants whose mothers were on nelfinavir and nevirapine, respectively. No mutations were detected among the eight infants infected after the breastfeeding period (age 6 mo).
Conclusions
Emergence of HIV drug resistance mutations in HIV-infected infants occurred between 2 wk and 6 mo post partum, most likely because of exposure to maternal ARV drugs through breast milk. Our findings may impact the choice of regimen for ARV treatment of HIV-infected breastfeeding mothers and their infected infants.
Trial Registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00146380
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Globally, more than 2 million children are infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), and half a million children are newly infected every year. These infections are mainly the result of mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV during pregnancy, labor and delivery, or through breastfeeding. MTCT can be greatly reduced by treating HIV-positive mothers and their babies with antiretroviral drugs (ARVs). Without ARVs, up to half of babies born to HIV-positive mothers become infected with HIV. This rate of transmission falls to below 5% if a combination of three ARVs is given to the mother throughout pregnancy. Unfortunately, this triple-ARV therapy is too expensive for use in the resource-limited countries where most MTCT occurs. Instead, many such countries have introduced simpler, shorter ARV regimens such as a daily dose of zidovudine (a nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor or NRTI) given to HIV-positive women during late pregnancy coupled with single-dose nevirapine (a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor or NNRTI) at the onset of labor, zidovudine and lamivudine (another NRTI) during labor and delivery, and single-dose nevirapine given to the baby at birth.
Why Was This Study Done?
More than 95% of HIV-exposed children are born in resource-limited settings where breastfeeding is the norm and is crucial for child survival even though it poses a risk of HIV transmission. Consequently, several recent studies have investigated whether MTCT can be further reduced by giving the mother ARVs while she is breastfeeding. In the Kisumu Breastfeeding Study (KiBS), for example, researchers assessed the effects of giving zidovudine, lamivudine, and either nevirapine or nelfinavir (a protease inhibitor) to HIV-infected women from 34 weeks of pregnancy through 6 months of breastfeeding. The results of KiBS indicate that this approach might be a safe, feasible way to reduce MTCT (see the accompanying paper by Thomas and colleagues). However, low amounts of nevirapine and lamivudine are transferred from mother to infant in breast milk and this exposure to ARVs could induce the development of resistance to ARVs among HIV-infected infants. In this KiBS substudy, the researchers investigate whether HIV drug resistance emerged in any of the HIV-positive infants in the parent study.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
In KiBS, 32 infants were HIV-positive at 24 months old; 24 were HIV-positive at 6 months old when their mothers stopped taking ARVs and when breastfeeding was supposed to stop. The researchers analyzed blood samples taken from these infants at various ages and from their mothers for the presence of HIV drug resistance mutations (DNA changes that make HIV resistant to killing by ARVs). They detected no resistance mutations in samples taken from 2-week old HIV-positive infants or from the infants who became infected after the age of 6 months. However, they found resistance mutations in a third and two-thirds of samples taken from 6-week and 6-month old HIV-positive infants, respectively. The commonest mutations conferred resistance to lamivudine and nevirapine. Moreover, resistance mutations were present in samples taken from all the HIV-positive infants whose mothers who had received nelfinavir but in only half those taken from infants whose mothers who had received nevirapine. Finally, most of the mothers of HIV-positive infants had no HIV drug resistance mutations, and only one mother-infant pair had an overlapping pattern of HIV drug resistance mutations.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings indicate that, in this KiBS substudy, the emergence of HIV drug resistance mutations in HIV-infected infants whose mothers were receiving ARVs occurred between 2 weeks and 6 months after birth. The pattern of mutations suggests that drug resistance most likely arose through exposure of the infants to low levels of ARVs in breast milk rather than through MTCT of drug-resistant virus. These findings need confirming but suggest that infants exposed to ARVs through breast milk—a situation that may become increasingly common given the reduction in MTCT seen in KiBS and other similar trials—should be carefully monitored for HIV infection. Providers should consider the mothers' regimen when choosing treatment for infants who are found to be HIV-infected despite maternal triple drug prophylaxis. Infants exposed to a maternal regimen with NNRTI drugs should receive first-line therapy with lopinavir/ritonavir, a protease inhibitor. The significance of the NRTI mutations such as M184V with regard to response to therapy needs further evaluation. The M184V mutation may result in hypersensitization to other NRTI drugs and delay or reverse zidovudine resistance. Given the limited availability of alternative drugs for infants in resource-limited settings, provision of the standard WHO-recommended first-line NRTI backbone, which includes 3TC, with enhanced monitoring of the infant to ensure virologic suppression, could be considered. Such an approach should reduce both illness and morbidity among infants who become HIV positive through breastfeeding.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/ 10.1371/journal.pmed.1000430.
The accompanying PLoS Medicine Research article by Thomas and colleagues describes the primary findings of the Kisumu Breastfeeding Study
Information is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases on HIV infection and AIDS
HIV InSite has comprehensive information on 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 (in several languages), and guidance on the use of ARVs for preventing MTCT
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1000430
PMCID: PMC3066134  PMID: 21468304
6.  Evidence of HIV exposure and transient seroreactivity in archived HIV-negative severe hemophiliac sera 
Virology Journal  2005;2:65.
Background
Approximately 25% of hemophiliacs that were frequently exposed to blood clotting factor concentrates (CFCs) contaminated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) are presently HIV seronegative. In this study, we sought to determine if some of these individuals were at any time transiently HIV seropositive. In the early to mid-1980s the majority of severe hemophilia patients were exposed to CFCs contaminated with HIV. Although many of these hemophiliacs became HIV-positive, a small percentage did not become infected. To determine if some of these individuals successfully resisted viral infection, we attempted to document the presence of transient HIV reactive antibodies in archived plasma samples (1980–1992) from currently HIV-negative severe hemophiliacs who had a high probability of repeated exposure to HIV contaminated CFC. Archived plasma samples were retrospectively tested using an FDA approved HIV-1Ab HIV-1/HIV-2 (rDNA) enzyme immunoassay (EIA) and a HIV-1 Western blot assay (Wb), neither of which were commercially available until the late 1980s, which was after many of these samples had been drawn.
Results
We found that during the high risk years of exposure to HIV contaminated CFC (1980–1987), low levels of plasma antibodies reactive with HIV proteins were detectable in 87% (13/15) of the haemophiliacs tested. None of these individuals are presently positive for HIV proviral DNA as assessed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR).
Conclusion
Our data suggest that some severe hemophiliacs with heavy exposure to infectious HIV contaminated CFC had only transient low-level humoral immune responses reactive with HIV antigens yet remained HIV-negative and apparently uninfected. Our data supports the possibility of HIV exposure without sustained infection and the existence of HIV-natural resistance in some individuals.
doi:10.1186/1743-422X-2-65
PMCID: PMC1232868  PMID: 16107217
7.  Association of the ANRS-12126 Male Circumcision Project with HIV Levels among Men in a South African Township: Evaluation of Effectiveness using Cross-sectional Surveys 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(9):e1001509.
Betran Auvert and colleagues report findings from the Bophelo Pele project, a community-based HIV prevention intervention offering free voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC), that demonstrate an association between VMMC roll-out and a reduction in the incidence and prevalence of HIV in the community.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Randomized controlled trials have shown that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC) reduces HIV infection by 50% to 60% in sub-Saharan African populations; however, little is known about the population-level effect of adult male circumcision (MC) as an HIV prevention method. We assessed the effectiveness of VMMC roll-out on the levels of HIV in the South African township of Orange Farm where the first randomized controlled trial (RCT) to test the effect of VMMC on HIV acquisition was conducted in 2002–2005.
Methods and Findings
The Bophelo Pele project is a community-based campaign against HIV, which includes the roll-out of free VMMC. A baseline cross-sectional biomedical survey was conducted in 2007–2008 among a random sample of 1,998 men aged 15 to 49 (survey response rate 80.7%). In 2010–2011, we conducted a follow-up random survey among 3,338 men aged 15 to 49 (survey response rate 79.6%) to evaluate the project. Participants were interviewed, blood samples were collected and tested for HIV and recent HIV infection (using the BED HIV incidence assay), and MC status was assessed through a clinical examination. Data were analyzed using multivariate and propensity statistical methods.
Owing to the VMMCs performed in the context of the RCT and the Bophelo Pele project, the prevalence rate of adult MC increased from 0.12 (95% CI 0.10–0.14) to 0.53 (95% CI 0.51–0.55). Without these VMMCs, the HIV prevalence rate in 2010–2011 would have been 19% (95% CI 12%–26%) higher (0.147 instead of 0.123).
When comparing circumcised and uncircumcised men, no association of MC status with sexual behavior was detected. Among circumcised and uncircumcised men, the proportion consistently using condoms with non-spousal partners in the past 12 months was 44.0% (95% CI 41.7%–46.5%) versus 45.4% (95% CI 42.2%–48.6%) with weighted prevalence rate ratio (wPRR) = 0.94 (95% CI 0.85–1.03). The proportion having two or more non-spousal partners was 50.4% (95% CI 47.9%–52.9%) versus 44.2% (95% CI 41.3%–46.9%) with wPRR = 1.03 (95% CI 0.95–1.10).
We found a reduction of BED-estimated HIV incidence rate ranging from 57% (95% CI 29%–76%) to 61% (95% CI 14%–83%) among circumcised men in comparison with uncircumcised men.
Conclusions
Findings suggest that the roll-out of VMMC in Orange Farm is associated with a significant reduction of HIV levels in the community. The main limitation of the study is that it was not randomized and cannot prove a causal association. The roll-out of VMMC among adults in sub-Saharan Africa should be an international priority and needs to be accelerated to effectively combat the spread of HIV.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Every year about 2.2 million people (mostly in sub-Saharan Africa) become infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Consequently, prevention of HIV transmission is extremely important. Because HIV is most often spread through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of HIV infection by abstaining from sex, by having only one or a few sexual partners, and by always using a male or female condom. The results of three randomized controlled trials conducted in sub-Saharan Africa also suggest that voluntary medical male circumcision (VMMC)—the removal of the foreskin, a loose fold of skin that covers the head of the penis—can reduce the heterosexual acquisition of HIV in men by 50%–60%. In 2007, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) recommended that VMMC should be offered as part of comprehensive HIV risk reduction programs in settings with generalized HIV epidemics and low levels of male circumcision and prioritized 14 east and southern African countries for VMMC roll-out.
Why Was This Study Done?
To date, about 3 million VMMCs have been performed for HIV prevention but it is not known whether “real world” VMMC roll-out programs will replicate the promising results obtained in the earlier trials. Indeed, there are fears that “risk compensation” (an increase in risky sexual behaviors after VMMC) might lead to increased HIV transmission in regions where VMMC is rolled out. In this study, the researchers use sequential cross-sectional surveys (studies that collect data from a group of people at a single time point) to investigate HIV infection levels in men in Orange Farm, a township in South Africa where one of the randomized controlled trials of VMMC was undertaken. The surveys were conducted before and after implementation of the Bophelo Pele project, a community-based campaign against HIV that was initiated in 2008 and that includes free VMMC.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers asked a random sample of nearly 2,000 men aged 15–49 years about their sexual behavior (for example, how many non-spousal partners they had had over the past year), and their intention to become circumcised if uncircumcised in a baseline survey in 2007–2008. The study participants were also offered HIV counseling and testing (including a test that indicated whether the participant had recently become HIV positive) and were examined to see whether they were already circumcised. A similar follow-up survey was conducted in 2010–2011 in which more than 3,000 men were invited to take part. At baseline, 12% of the men surveyed had been circumcised (a prevalence of circumcision of 12%) whereas in the follow-up survey, the overall prevalence of circumcision and the prevalence of circumcision among 15–29 year-olds (an important target group for VMMC roll-out) were 53% and 58%, respectively. The overall HIV prevalence at follow-up was 12% and the researchers estimated that without the VMMCs performed during the Bophelo Pele project and the preceding randomized control trial the prevalence of HIV among men living in Orange Farm would have been 15% in 2011. Using various cut-off values and corrections for a laboratory-based test to measure recent HIV infections, the researchers reported a reduction in the rate of new HIV infections (incidence rate) ranging from 57% to 61% among circumcised men in comparison with uncircumcised men. Importantly, there was no evidence of an association between circumcision status and risky sexual behavior but circumcision was associated with a reduction in the number of men who had recently become HIV positive.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that VMMC roll out in Orange Farm is associated with a reduction in HIV infection levels in the community and that circumcision is not associated with changes in sexual behavior that might affect HIV infection rates. They also suggest that VMMC roll-out is associated with a rapid uptake of VMMC, especially among young men, in an African community where male circumcision is not a social norm. Because this study is not a randomized controlled trial, it cannot establish cause and effect. Thus, although the observed reduction in HIV prevalence among circumcised men compared to uncircumcised men suggests that circumcision provided protection against HIV acquisition within the study population, the results do not conclusively prove this. The findings of this study nevertheless support the continuation and acceleration of the roll-out of adult VMMC in Africa although further studies are needed to show whether VMMC roll-out is also associated with a reduction in HIV acquisition among women and among uncircumcised men.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001509.
Information and resources on male circumcision for HIV prevention are available
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, summaries of recent research findings on HIV care and treatment, and information on male circumcision for the prevention of HIV transmission
Information is available from WHO and UNAIDS on all aspects of HIV/AIDS; the Clearinghouse on Male Circumcision, a resource provided by WHO, UNAIDS and other international bodies, provides information and tools for VMMC policy development and program implementation; a report entitled Progress in scaling up voluntary medical male circumcision for HIV prevention in East and Southern Africa, January-December 2011 is available
Information is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity on many aspects of HIV/AIDS, including information on HIV and AIDS in South Africa, on HIV prevention, and on circumcision and HIV (in English and Spanish)
A 2010 PLOS Medicine Research Article by Pascale Lissouba et al. provides more information about the Bophelo Pele project
Personal stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert, through Nam/aidsmap, and through the charity website Healthtalkonline; a personal story about circumcision in Zimbabwe is available
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001509
PMCID: PMC3760784  PMID: 24019763
8.  Evidence for Persistent Low-Level Viremia in Individuals Who Control Human Immunodeficiency Virus in the Absence of Antiretroviral Therapy▿  
Journal of Virology  2008;83(1):329-335.
A subset of antiretroviral-untreated, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals are able to maintain undetectable plasma HIV RNA levels in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. These “elite” controllers are of high interest as they may provide novel insights regarding host mechanisms of virus control. The degree to which these individuals have residual plasma viremia has not been well defined. We performed a longitudinal study of 46 elite controllers, defined as HIV-seropositive, antiretroviral-untreated individuals with plasma HIV RNA levels of <50 to 75 copies/ml. The median duration of HIV diagnosis was 13 years, the median baseline CD4+ T-cell count was 753 cells/mm3, and the median duration of follow-up was 16 months. Plasma and cellular HIV RNA levels were measured using the transcription-mediated amplification (TMA) assay (estimated limit of detection of <3.5 copies RNA/ml). A total of 1,117 TMA assays were performed (median of five time points/subject and four replicates/time point). All but one subject had detectable plasma HIV RNA on at least one time point, and 15 (33%) subjects had detectable RNA at all time points. The majority of controllers also had detectable cell-associated RNA and proviral DNA. A mixed-effect linear model showed no strong evidence of change in plasma RNA levels over time. In conclusion, the vast majority (98%) of elite controllers had measurable plasma HIV RNA, often at levels higher than that observed in antiretroviral-treated patients. This confirms the failure to eradicate the virus, even in these unique individuals who are able to reduce plasma viremia to very low levels without antiretroviral therapy.
doi:10.1128/JVI.01763-08
PMCID: PMC2612329  PMID: 18945778
9.  Complement Lysis Activity in Autologous Plasma Is Associated with Lower Viral Loads during the Acute Phase of HIV-1 Infection 
PLoS Medicine  2006;3(11):e441.
Background
To explore the possibility that antibody-mediated complement lysis contributes to viremia control in HIV-1 infection, we measured the activity of patient plasma in mediating complement lysis of autologous primary virus.
Methods and Findings
Sera from two groups of patients—25 with acute HIV-1 infection and 31 with chronic infection—were used in this study. We developed a novel real-time PCR-based assay strategy that allows reliable and sensitive quantification of virus lysis by complement. Plasma derived at the time of virus isolation induced complement lysis of the autologous virus isolate in the majority of patients. Overall lysis activity against the autologous virus and the heterologous primary virus strain JR-FL was higher at chronic disease stages than during the acute phase. Most strikingly, we found that plasma virus load levels during the acute but not the chronic infection phase correlated inversely with the autologous complement lysis activity. Antibody reactivity to the envelope (Env) proteins gp120 and gp41 were positively correlated with the lysis activity against JR-FL, indicating that anti-Env responses mediated complement lysis. Neutralization and complement lysis activity against autologous viruses were not associated, suggesting that complement lysis is predominantly caused by non-neutralizing antibodies.
Conclusions
Collectively our data provide evidence that antibody-mediated complement virion lysis develops rapidly and is effective early in the course of infection; thus it should be considered a parameter that, in concert with other immune functions, steers viremia control in vivo.
Antibody-mediated complement lysis of HIV virions develops rapidly and is effective already early in the course of HIV infection.
Editors' Summary
Background.
If untreated, most people who become infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) eventually develop acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). Over time, HIV infects and kills their CD4 T lymphocytes—immune system cells that stimulate B lymphocytes to make antibodies (proteins that recognize and destroy infectious agents) and that help CD8 T lymphocytes to kill cells that contain viruses and bacteria. The loss of CD4 T lymphocytes—a central player in “adaptive immunity”—leaves patients very susceptible to infections. However, the immune system does not die quietly. It does its best to fight HIV infection by mounting a cell-mediated immune response in which T lymphocytes attack HIV-infected cells. It also mounts a “humoral” immune response in which antibodies that recognize HIV are made. Some of these are neutralizing antibodies, which prevent HIV entering its host cells and replicating. Other antibodies may limit viral spread by inducing destruction of the virus. One way they can do this is by activating another part of the immune system called the complement system, which can break open and kill viruses (this is known as antibody-mediated complement lysis). In addition, antibodies and complement can coat the HIV virus particles so that phagocytes (for instance macrophages—yet another type of immune system cell) engulf and destroy the virus.
Why Was This Study Done?
The role that humoral immunity plays in fighting HIV infection is complex and poorly understood. In particular, it is not clear whether the complement system helps to stop the spread of HIV or whether it inadvertently helps it to spread by facilitating its entry into host cells. It is important to understand as much as possible about the humoral immune response to HIV infection so that vaccines can be designed to provide maximum protection against HIV. In this study, the researchers have investigated whether antibody-mediated complement lysis controls the amount of virus in the blood of patients infected with HIV.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers collected plasma (the liquid part of blood that contains circulating antibodies) from patients recently infected with HIV (acute infection) and patients who had been infected for some time (chronically infected). They also isolated HIV from each of the patients—so-called autologous virus. They then used a sensitive molecular biology assay to test each plasma sample for its ability to lyse the autologous virus (and also a standard virus) when supplied with complement from a healthy donor. Most of the plasma samples were able to lyse HIV, although the samples taken from chronically infected patients generally caused more lysis than those from acutely infected patients. In the chronically infected patients, the level of lysis induced was not related to the amount of virus in the patients' blood (viremia). However, plasma taken from acutely infected patients with higher viral loads was less active in the lysis assay than plasma taken from patients with lower viral loads. Finally, the researchers showed that the levels of antibodies in the various plasma samples to the two envelope proteins of HIV correlated strongly with the ability of each sample to lyse the standard virus and that these antibodies were mainly non-neutralizing antibodies.
What Do These Findings Mean?
By showing that antibody-mediated complement lysis of HIV in the laboratory is inversely related to the patients' viral loads during acute infection, these findings suggest (but do not prove) that antibody-mediated complement lysis of HIV contributes to the control of viremia early in HIV infections. But, the importance of this form of humoral immunity in combating HIV infections remains uncertain, since complement has the potential to enhance as well as block viral spread. Further work is needed to unravel which of these effects is dominant in patients and to characterize fully the antibodies that activate complement. Nevertheless, the results of this study suggest that complement-activating antibodies should be considered in future attempts to design an effective HIV vaccine.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0030441.
National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases fact sheet on HIV infection and AIDS
US Department of Health and Human Services information on AIDS, including information on vaccines
US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention information on HIV/AIDS
Aidsmap information on HIV and the immune system provided by the charity NAM
Wikipedia pages on the complement system (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit)
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0030441
PMCID: PMC1637124  PMID: 17121450
10.  Kidney and liver organ transplantation in persons with human immunodeficiency virus 
Executive Summary
Objective
The objective of this analysis is to determine the effectiveness of solid organ transplantation in persons with end stage organ failure (ESOF) and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV+)
Clinical Need: Condition and Target Population
Patients with end stage organ failure who have been unresponsive to other forms of treatment eventually require solid organ transplantation. Similar to persons who are HIV negative (HIV−), persons living with HIV infection (HIV+) are at risk for ESOF from viral (e.g. hepatitis B and C) and non-viral aetiologies (e.g. coronary artery disease, diabetes, hepatocellular carcinoma). Additionally, HIV+ persons also incur risks of ESOF from HIV-associated nephropathy (HIVAN), accelerated liver damage from hepatitis C virus (HCV+), with which an estimated 30% of HIV positive (HIV+) persons are co-infected, and coronary artery disease secondary to antiretroviral therapy. Concerns that the need for post transplant immunosuppression and/or the interaction of immunosuppressive drugs with antiretroviral agents may accelerate the progression of HIV disease, as well as the risk of opportunistic infections post transplantation, have led to uncertainty regarding the overall benefit of transplantation among HIV+ patients. Moreover, the scarcity of donor organs and their use in a population where the clinical benefit of transplantation is uncertain has limited the availability of organ transplantation to persons living with ESOF and HIV.
With the development of highly active anti retroviral therapy (HAART), which has been available in Canada since 1997, there has been improved survival and health-related quality of life for persons living with HIV. HAART can suppress HIV replication, enhance immune function, and slow disease progression. HAART managed persons can now be expected to live longer than those in the pre-HAART era and as a result many will now experience ESOF well before they experience life-threatening conditions related to HIV infection. Given their improved prognosis and the burden of illness they may experience from ESOF, the benefit of solid organ transplantation for HIV+ patients needs to be reassessed.
Evidence-Based Analysis Methods
Research Questions
What are the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of solid organ transplantation in HIV+ persons with ESOF?
Literature Search
A literature search was performed on September 22, 2009 using OVID MEDLINE, MEDLINE In-Process and Other Non-Indexed Citations, EMBASE, the Cumulative Index to Nursing & Allied Health Literature (CINAHL), the Cochrane Library, and the International Agency for Health Technology Assessment (INAHTA) for studies published from January 1, 1996 to September 22, 2009.
Inclusion Criteria
Systematic review with or without a Meta analysis, RCT, Non-RCT with controls
HIV+ population undergoing solid organ transplantation
HIV+ population managed with HAART therapy
Controls include persons undergoing solid organ transplantation who are i) HIV− ii) HCV+ mono-infected, and iii) HIV+ persons with ESOF not transplanted.
Studies that completed and reported results of a Kaplan-Meier Survival Curve analysis.
Studies with a minimum (mean or medium) follow up of 1-year.
English language citations
Exclusion Criteria
Case reports and case series were excluded form this review.
Outcomes of Interest
i) Risk of Death after transplantation
ii) Death censored graft survival (DCGS)
iii) HIV disease progression defined as the post transplant incidence of:
- opportunistic infections or neoplasms,
- CD4+ T-cell count < 200mm3, and
- any detectable level of plasma HIV viral load.
iv) Acute graft rejection,
v) Return to dialysis,
vi) Recurrence of HCV infection
Summary of Findings
No direct evidence comparing an HIV+ cohort undergoing transplantation with the same not undergoing transplantation (wait list) was found in the literature search.
The results of this review are reported for the following comparison cohorts undergoing transplantation:
i) Kidney Transplantation: HIV+ cohort compared with HIV− cohort
ii) Liver Transplantation: HIV+ cohort compared with HIV− negative cohort
iii) Liver Transplantation: HIV+ HCV+ (co-infected) cohort compared with HCV+ (mono-infected) cohort
Kidney Transplantation: HIV+ vs. HIV−
Based on a pooled HIV+ cohort sample size of 285 patients across four studies, the risk of death after kidney transplantation in an HIV+ cohort does not differ to that of an HIV− cohort [hazard ratio (HR): 0.90; 95% CI: 0.36, 2.23]. The quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Death censored graft survival was reported in one study with an HIV+ cohort sample size of 100, and was statistically significantly different (p=.03) to that in the HIV− cohort (n=36,492). However, the quality of evidence supporting this outcome was determined to be very low. There was also uncertainty in the rate of return to dialysis after kidney transplantation in both the HIV+ and HIV− groups and the effect, if any, this may have on patient survival. Because of the very low quality evidence rating, the effect of kidney transplantation on HIV-disease progression is uncertain.
The rate of acute graft rejection was determined using the data from one study. There was a nonsignificant difference between the HIV+ and HIV− cohorts (OR 0.13; 95% CI: 0.01, 2.64), although again, because of very low quality evidence there is uncertainty in this estimate of effect.
Liver Transplantation: HIV+ vs. HIV−
Based on a combined HIV+ cohort sample size of 198 patient across five studies, the risk of death after liver transplantation in an HIV+ cohort (with at least 50% of the cohort co-infected with HCV+) is statistically significantly 64% greater compared with an HIV− cohort (HR: 1.64; 95% CI: 1.32, 2.02). The quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low.
Death censored graft survival was reported for an HIV+ cohort in one study (n=11) however the DCGS rate of the contemporaneous control HIV− cohort was not reported. Because of sparse data the quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low indicating death censored graft survival is uncertain.
Both the CD4+ T-cell count and HIV viral load appear controlled post transplant with an incidence of opportunistic infection of 20.5%. However, the quality of this evidence for these outcomes is very low indicating uncertainty in these effects. Similarly, because of very low quality evidence there is uncertainty in the rate of acute graft rejection among both the HIV+ and HIV− groups
Liver Transplantation: HIV+/HCV+ vs. HCV+
Based on a combined HIV+/HCV+ cohort sample size of 156 from seven studies, the risk of death after liver transplantation is significantly greater (2.8 fold) in a co-infected cohort compared with an HCV+ mono-infected cohort (HR: 2.81; 95% CI: 1.47, 5.37). The quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low. Death censored graft survival evidence was not available.
Regarding disease progression, based on a combined sample size of 71 persons in the co-infected cohort, the CD4+ T-cell count and HIV viral load appear controlled post transplant; however, again the quality of evidence supporting this outcome is very low. The rate of opportunistic infection in the co-infected cohort was 7.2%. The quality of evidence supporting this estimate is very low, indicating uncertainty in these estimates of effect.
Based on a combined HIV+/HCV+ cohort (n=57) the rate of acute graft rejection does not differ to that of an HCV+ mono-infected cohort (OR: 0.88; 95% CI: 0.44, 1.76). Also based on a combined HIV+/HCV+ cohort (n=83), the rate of HCV+ recurrence does not differ to that of an HCV+ mono-infected cohort (OR: 0.66; 95% CI: 0.27, 1.59). In both cases, the quality of the supporting evidence was very low.
Overall, because of very low quality evidence there is uncertainty in the effect of kidney or liver transplantation in HIV+ persons with end stage organ failure compared with those not infected with HIV. Examining the economics of this issue, the cost of kidney and liver transplants in an HIV+ patient population are, on average, 56K and 147K per case, based on both Canadian and American experiences.
PMCID: PMC3377507  PMID: 23074407
11.  Scarcity or Absence of Humoral Immune Responses in the Plasma and Cervicovaginal Lavage Fluids of Heavily HIV-1-Exposed But Persistently Seronegative Women 
Abstract
To address an existing controversy concerning the presence of HIV-1-specific antibodies of the IgA isotype in the female genital tract secretions of highly-exposed but persistently seronegative (HEPSN) women, 41 samples of plasma and cervicovaginal lavage (CVL) fluid were distributed to six laboratories for their blinded evaluation using ELISA with 10 different HIV-1 antigens, chemiluminescence-enhanced Western blots (ECL-WB), and virus neutralization. HIV-specific IgG or IgA antibodies in plasma samples from HEPSN women were absent or detectable only at low levels. In CVL, 11/41 samples displayed low levels of reactivity in ELISA against certain antigens. However, only one sample was positive in two of five laboratories. All but one CVL sample yielded negative results when analyzed by ECL-WB. Viral neutralizing activity was either absent or inconsistently detected in plasma and CVL. Plasma and CVL samples from 26 HIV-1-infected women were used as positive controls. Irrespective of the assays and antigens used, the results generated in all laboratories displayed remarkable concordance in the detection of HIV-1-specific antibodies of the IgG isotype. In contrast, IgA antibodies to HIV-1 antigens were not detected with consistency, and where present, IgA antibodies were at markedly lower levels than IgG. Although HIV-neutralizing activity was detected in plasma of all HIV-1-infected women, only a few of their CVL samples displayed such activity. In conclusion, frequent HIV-1 sexual exposure does not stimulate uniformly detectable mucosal or systemic HIV-1-specific responses, as convincingly documented in the present blindly performed study using a broad variety of immunological assays. Although HIV-1-infection leads to vigorous IgG responses in plasma and CVL, it does not stimulate sustained IgA responses in either fluid.
doi:10.1089/aid.2010.0169
PMCID: PMC3132065  PMID: 21091128
12.  Prevention of SIV Rectal Transmission and Priming of T Cell Responses in Macaques after Local Pre-exposure Application of Tenofovir Gel 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(8):e157.
Background
The rectum is particularly vulnerable to HIV transmission having only a single protective layer of columnar epithelium overlying tissue rich in activated lymphoid cells; thus, unprotected anal intercourse in both women and men carries a higher risk of infection than other sexual routes. In the absence of effective prophylactic vaccines, increasing attention is being given to the use of microbicides and preventative antiretroviral (ARV) drugs. To prevent mucosal transmission of HIV, a microbicide/ARV should ideally act locally at and near the virus portal of entry. As part of an integrated rectal microbicide development programme, we have evaluated rectal application of the nucleotide reverse transcriptase (RT) inhibitor tenofovir (PMPA, 9-[(R)-2-(phosphonomethoxy) propyl] adenine monohydrate), a drug licensed for therapeutic use, for protective efficacy against rectal challenge with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in a well-established and standardised macaque model.
Methods and Findings
A total of 20 purpose-bred Indian rhesus macaques were used to evaluate the protective efficacy of topical tenofovir. Nine animals received 1% tenofovir gel per rectum up to 2 h prior to virus challenge, four macaques received placebo gel, and four macaques remained untreated. In addition, three macaques were given tenofovir gel 2 h after virus challenge. Following intrarectal instillation of 20 median rectal infectious doses (MID50) of a noncloned, virulent stock of SIVmac251/32H, all animals were analysed for virus infection, by virus isolation from peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), quantitative proviral DNA load in PBMC, plasma viral RNA (vRNA) load by sensitive quantitative competitive (qc) RT-PCR, and presence of SIV-specific serum antibodies by ELISA. We report here a significant protective effect (p = 0.003; Fisher exact probability test) wherein eight of nine macaques given tenofovir per rectum up to 2 h prior to virus challenge were protected from infection (n = 6) or had modified virus outcomes (n = 2), while all untreated macaques and three of four macaques given placebo gel were infected, as were two of three animals receiving tenofovir gel after challenge. Moreover, analysis of lymphoid tissues post mortem failed to reveal sequestration of SIV in the protected animals. We found a strong positive association between the concentration of tenofovir in the plasma 15 min after rectal application of gel and the degree of protection in the six animals challenged with virus at this time point. Moreover, colorectal explants from non-SIV challenged tenofovir-treated macaques were resistant to infection ex vivo, whereas no inhibition was seen in explants from the small intestine. Tissue-specific inhibition of infection was associated with the intracellular detection of tenofovir. Intriguingly, in the absence of seroconversion, Gag-specific gamma interferon (IFN-γ)-secreting T cells were detected in the blood of four of seven protected animals tested, with frequencies ranging from 144 spot forming cells (SFC)/106 PBMC to 261 spot forming cells (SFC)/106 PBMC.
Conclusions
These results indicate that colorectal pretreatment with ARV drugs, such as tenofovir, has potential as a clinically relevant strategy for the prevention of HIV transmission. We conclude that plasma tenofovir concentration measured 15 min after rectal administration may serve as a surrogate indicator of protective efficacy. This may prove to be useful in the design of clinical studies. Furthermore, in vitro intestinal explants served as a model for drug distribution in vivo and susceptibility to virus infection. The finding of T cell priming following exposure to virus in the absence of overt infection is provocative. Further studies would reveal if a combined modality microbicide and vaccination strategy is feasible by determining the full extent of local immune responses induced and their protective potential.
Martin Cranage and colleagues find that topical tenofovir gel can protect against rectal challenge with SIV in a macaque model, and can permit the induction of SIV-specific T cell responses.
Editors' Summary
Background.
About 33 million people are now infected with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which causes AIDS by killing immune system cells. As yet, there is no cure for AIDS, although HIV infections can be held in check with antiretroviral drugs. Also, despite years of research, there is no vaccine available that effectively protects people against HIV infection. So, to halt the AIDS epidemic, other ways of preventing the spread of HIV are being sought. For example, pre-exposure treatment (prophylaxis) with antiretroviral drugs is being investigated as a way to prevent HIV transmission. In addition, because HIV is often spread through heterosexual penile-to-vaginal sex with an infected partner, several vaginal microbicides (compounds that protect against HIV when applied inside the vagina) are being developed, some of which contain antiretroviral drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because HIV can cross the membranes that line the mouth and the rectum (the lower end of the large intestine that connects to the anus) in addition to the membrane that lines the vagina, HIV transmission can also occur during oral and anal sex. The lining of the rectum in particular is extremely thin and overlies tissues rich in activated T cells (the immune system cells that HIV targets), so unprotected anal intercourse carries a high risk of HIV infection. Anal intercourse is common among men who have sex with men but is also more common in heterosexual populations than is generally thought. Tenofovir (an antiretroviral drug that counteracts HIV after it has entered human cells) given by mouth partly protects macaques against rectal infection with simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV; a virus that induces AIDS in monkeys and apes) so the researchers wanted to know whether this drug might be effective against rectal SIV infection if applied at the site where the virus enters the body.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
To answer this question, the researchers rectally infected several macaques with SIV up to 2 h after rectal application of a gel containing tenofovir, after rectal application of a gel not containing the drug, or after no treatment. In addition, a few animals were treated with the tenofovir gel after the viral challenge. Most of the animals given the tenofovir gel before the viral challenge were partly or totally protected from SIV infection, whereas all the untreated animals and most of those treated with the placebo gel or with the drug-containing gel after the viral challenge became infected with SIV. High blood levels of tenofovir 15 min after its rectal application correlated with protection from viral infection. The researchers also collected rectal and small intestine samples from tenofovir-treated macaques that had not been exposed to SIV and asked which samples were resistant to SIV infection in laboratory dishes. They found that only the rectal samples were resistant to infection and only rectal cells contained tenofovir. Finally, activated T cells that recognized an SIV protein were present in the blood of some of the animals that were protected from SIV infection by the tenofovir gel.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings, although based on experiments in only a few animals, suggest that rectal treatment with antiretroviral drugs before rectal exposure to HIV might prevent rectal HIV transmission in people. However, results from animal experiments do not always reflect what happens in people. Indeed, clinical trials of a potential vaginal microbicide that worked well in macaques were halted recently because women using the microbicide had higher rates of HIV infection than those using a control preparation. The finding that immune-system activation can occur in the absence of overt infection in animals treated with the tenofovir gel additionally suggests that a combination of a local antiretroviral/microbicide and vaccination might be a particularly effective way to prevent HIV transmission. However, because HIV targets activated T cells, viral rechallenge experiments must be done to check that the activated T cells induced by the virus in the presence of tenofovir do not increase the likelihood of infection upon re-exposure to HIV before this potential microbicide is tried in people.
Additional Information
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.0050157.
Read the accompanying PLoS Medicine Perspective by Florian Hladik
An overview of HIV infection and AIDS is available from the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases
HIVInSite has comprehensive information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS, including an article on safer sex, which includes information on the risks associated with specific types of sex and on microbicides and other methods to prevent the sexual transmission of HIV
Information on all aspects of HIV/AIDS is available from Avert, an international AIDS charity, including information on HIV prevention and on microbicides
The World Health Organization has a fact sheet on microbicides
The UK charity NAM also provides detailed information on microbicides
PrEP Watch is a comprehensive information source on pre-exposure prophylaxis for HIV prevention
Global Campaign for Microbicides is an international coalition of organisations dedicated to accelerating access to new HIV prevention options
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.0050157
PMCID: PMC2494562  PMID: 18684007
13.  Interpretation of Positive TMA Test Results from PCR-Negative Samples Obtained after Treatment of Chronic Hepatitis C 
Hepatology (Baltimore, Md.)  2008;48(5):1412-1419.
Background
The Siemens VERSANT™ transcription mediated amplification (TMA) assay is extremely sensitive for the detection of hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA in serum. Eleven of 180 subjects in the Hepatitis C Antiviral Long-term Treatment against Cirrhosis (HALT-C) Trial who achieved polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-defined sustained virologic response (SVR) at week 72 also had TMA-positive results from the same blood draw; 6 were positive on repeat testing. We report the follow-up on these 11 patients, and the reproducibility of TMA test results from PCR-negative samples in relationship to antiviral treatment outcome.
Materials and Methods
1145 interferon nonresponders with advanced hepatic fibrosis were retreated with peginterferon and ribavirin for 48 weeks if HCV RNA was undetectable by PCR (Roche COBAS Amplicor HCV Test v. 2.0) at week 20. Frozen serum samples from weeks 12, 20, 24, 48 and 72 were subsequently tested by TMA.
Results
Nine of the 11 patients returned for testing (mean 30 months after completing treatment) and all had undetectable HCV RNA by TMA and PCR. Among 759 PCR-negative samples obtained during treatment that were tested twice by TMA, 17% overall exhibited consistently positive results and 21% exhibited inconsistently positive results. SVR was more likely if TMA was consistently negative than if consistently or inconsistently positive. With continued treatment, patients with inconsistently positive TMA results were more likely to become TMA-negative than TMA-positive (p<0.0001).
Conclusion
In PCR-negative samples, positive TMA results may indicate the presence of low levels of HCV RNA. However, because patients with positive TMA results may achieve SVR, management decisions during therapy should not be based upon a single positive TMA test result.
doi:10.1002/hep.22487
PMCID: PMC2804270  PMID: 18816437
peginterferon alfa; ribavirin; Versant; Amplicor; SVR (sustained virological response); antiviral; therapy
14.  Performance Characteristics of the QUANTIPLEX HIV-1 RNA 3.0 Assay for Detection and Quantitation of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 RNA in Plasma 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2000;38(8):2837-2845.
The QUANTIPLEX HIV-1 RNA assay, version 3.0 (a branched DNA, version 3.0, assay [bDNA 3.0 assay]), was evaluated by analyzing spiked and clinical plasma samples and was compared with the AMPLICOR HIV-1 MONITOR Ultrasensitive (ultrasensitive reverse transcription-PCR [US-RT-PCR]) method. A panel of spiked plasma samples that contained 0 to 750,000 copies of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) RNA per ml was tested four times in each of four laboratories (1,344 assays). Negative results (<50 copies/ml) were obtained in 30 of 32 (94%) assays with seronegative samples, 66 of 128 (52%) assays with HIV-1 RNA at 50 copies/ml, and 5 of 128 (4%) assays with HIV-1 RNA at 100 copies/ml. The assay was linear from 100 to 500,000 copies/ml. The within-run standard deviation (SD) of the log10 estimated HIV-1 RNA concentration was 0.08 at 1,000 to 500,000 copies/ml, increased below 1,000 copies/ml, and was 0.17 at 100 copies/ml. Between-run reproducibility at 100 to 500 copies/ml was <0.10 log10 in most comparisons. Interlaboratory differences across runs were ≤0.10 log10 at all concentrations examined. A subset of the panel (25 to 500 copies/ml) was also analyzed by the US-RT-PCR assay. The within-run SD varied inversely with the log10 HIV-1 RNA concentration but was higher than the SD for the bDNA 3.0 assay at all concentrations. Log-log regression analysis indicated that the two methods produced very similar estimates at 100 to 500 copies/ml. In parallel testing of clinical specimens with low HIV-1 RNA levels, 80 plasma samples with <50 copies/ml by the US-RT-PCR assay had <50 copies/ml when they were retested by the bDNA 3.0 assay. In contrast, 11 of 78 (14%) plasma samples with <50 copies/ml by the bDNA 3.0 assay had ≥50 copies/ml when they were retested by the US-RT-PCR assay (median, 86 copies/ml; range, 50 to 217 copies/ml). Estimation of bDNA 3.0 values of <50 copies/ml by extending the standard curve of the assay showed that these samples with discrepant results had higher HIV-1 RNA levels than the samples with concordant results (median, 34 versus 17 copies/ml; P = 0.0051 by the Wilcoxon two-sample test). The excellent reproducibility, broad linear range, and good sensitivity of the bDNA 3.0 assay make it a very attractive method for quantitation of HIV-1 RNA levels in plasma.
PMCID: PMC87124  PMID: 10921936
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.  Detection of Individuals with Acute HIV-1 Infection using the ARCHITECT® HIV Ag/Ab Combo Assay 
Background
We evaluated use of the ARCHITECT® HIV Ag/Ab Combo assay (HIV Combo; Abbott Diagnostics; available for sale outside of the U.S. only) for detection of acute HIV infection.
Methods
Samples were obtained from a behavioral intervention study (EXPLORE). HIV-uninfected men who have sex with men were enrolled and tested for HIV infection every 6 months. Samples from seroconverters collected at their last seronegative visit (n=217) were tested individually using two HIV RNA assays. Samples with detectable HIV RNA were classified as acute and were tested with HIV Combo. Samples from the enrollment visit (n=83) and the time of HIV seroconversion (n=219) were tested with HIV Combo as controls.
Results
Twenty-one (9.7%) samples from the last seronegative visit had detectable HIV RNA and were classified as acute. HIV Combo was positive for 13 (61.9%) of the acute samples. Samples not detected by HIV Combo had viral loads of 724 to 15,130 copies/ml. Expected results were obtained for positive and negative controls tested with HIV Combo.
Conclusions
HIV Combo detected nearly two-thirds of acute HIV infections identified in this high-risk population by non-pooled, HIV RNA assays. HIV Combo may be useful for high-throughput screening to identify individuals with acute HIV infection.
doi:10.1097/QAI.0b013e3181ab61e1
PMCID: PMC2744045  PMID: 19506484
acute infection; HIV-1; HIV Ag/Ab Combo assay
17.  Early Detection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1-Specific B-Lymphocyte-Derived Antibodies in a High-Risk Population▿  
Diagnosis of acute human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection, a key driver of the HIV epidemic, remains a public health challenge. The PlasmAcute technology offers an opportunity to detect early anti-HIV antibody responses. B lymphocytes (B cells) were isolated from the blood of seronegative miners in South Africa by using the PlasmAcute method. B-cell lysates and paired sera were tested for anti-HIV-1 antibodies by two different enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays; immunoreactivity was confirmed by Western blotting. All volunteers were tested for HIV type 1 (HIV-1) viral load, p24 antigen, and CD4 count. Sera from HIV-seronegative men who had positive viral loads and were positive for p24 antigen were retested for anti-HIV antibodies after immune complex dissociation. Anti-HIV antibodies were detected in lysates from 16/259 subjects without immunoreactivity in paired sera. Four subjects, one of whom had a positive viral load initially, subsequently seroconverted. Six subjects showed transient anti-HIV-1 antibodies in the lysates and tested negative for all markers at the follow-up. Five subjects without follow-up data initially had lysate-positive/serum-negative samples, and these cases were classified as inconclusive. One subject had lysate antibodies and a detectable viral load but was seronegative at follow-up. In conclusion, lysate-derived anti-HIV-1 B-cell antibodies can be detected prior to seroconversion and earlier than or contemporary with HIV-1 RNA detection.
doi:10.1128/CVI.00280-08
PMCID: PMC2708407  PMID: 19474262
18.  HIV Acquisition Is Associated with Increased Antimicrobial Peptides and Reduced HIV Neutralizing IgA in the Foreskin Prepuce of Uncircumcised Men 
PLoS Pathogens  2014;10(10):e1004416.
Background
The foreskin is the site of most HIV acquisition in uncircumcised heterosexual men. Although HIV-exposed, seronegative (HESN) uncircumcised men demonstrate HIV-neutralizing IgA and increased antimicrobial peptides (AMPs) in the foreskin prepuce, no prospective studies have examined the mucosal immune correlates of HIV acquisition.
Methods
To assess the association of foreskin immune parameters with HIV acquisition, antimicrobial peptides and IgA with the capacity to neutralize a primary clade C HIV strain were quantified by blinded investigators, using sub-preputial swabs collected longitudinally during a randomized trial of male circumcision for HIV prevention in Rakai, Uganda.
Results
Participants were 99 men who acquired HIV (cases) and 109 randomly selected controls who remained HIV seronegative. At enrollment, 44.4% of cases vs. 69.7% of controls demonstrated IgA neutralization (adjusted OR = 0.31; 95% CI, 0.16–0.61). IgA neutralization was detected in 38.7% of cases and 70.7% of controls at the last seronegative case visit prior to HIV acquisition and the comparable control visit (adjusted OR 0.21; 95% CI, 0.11–0.39). Levels of the α-defensins and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) were over ten-fold higher in the foreskin prepuce of cases who acquired HIV, both at enrollment (mean 4.43 vs. 3.03 and 5.98 vs. 4.61 logn pg/mL, P = 0.005 and 0.009, respectively), and at the last seronegative visit (mean 4.81 vs. 3.15 and 6.46 vs. 5.20 logn pg/mL, P = 0.0002 and 0.013).
Conclusions
This prospective, blinded analysis is the first to assess the immune correlates of HIV acquisition in the foreskin. HIV-neutralizing IgA, previously associated with the HESN phenotype, was a biomarker of HIV protection, but other HESN associations correlated with increased HIV acquisition. This emphasizes the importance of prospective epidemiological studies or in vitro tissue studies to define the impact of mucosal parameters on HIV risk.
Author Summary
Randomized trials of male circumcision (MC) for HIV prevention have shown that the foreskin is a major site of HIV acquisition among heterosexual men, but a number of barriers to MC programs mean that many HIV-susceptible men remain uncircumcised. The immune correlates of HIV acquisition in the foreskin are poorly described, and may inform prevention strategies for uncircumcised men. Using swabs collected prospectively during a previous randomized trial of MC for HIV prevention in Uganda, blinded investigators assessed levels of HIV-neutralizing IgA and soluble antimicrobial peptides in the foreskin prepuce of cases who acquired HIV (n = 99) and controls men who did not (n = 109). We show that IgA with the capacity to neutralize HIV was associated with protection against HIV, while levels of α-defensins and secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI) were associated with increased acquisition. This is the first study to assess the immune correlates of HIV acquisition in the foreskin. Advantages included its relatively large sample size, rigorous blinding of immune assays, and ability to control for relevant potential confounders.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1004416
PMCID: PMC4183701  PMID: 25275513
19.  HIV-1 Transmission during Early Infection in Men Who Have Sex with Men: A Phylodynamic Analysis 
PLoS Medicine  2013;10(12):e1001568.
Erik Volz and colleagues use HIV genetic information from a cohort of men who have sex with men in Detroit, USA to dissect the timing of onward transmission during HIV infection.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Background
Conventional epidemiological surveillance of infectious diseases is focused on characterization of incident infections and estimation of the number of prevalent infections. Advances in methods for the analysis of the population-level genetic variation of viruses can potentially provide information about donors, not just recipients, of infection. Genetic sequences from many viruses are increasingly abundant, especially HIV, which is routinely sequenced for surveillance of drug resistance mutations. We conducted a phylodynamic analysis of HIV genetic sequence data and surveillance data from a US population of men who have sex with men (MSM) and estimated incidence and transmission rates by stage of infection.
Methods and Findings
We analyzed 662 HIV-1 subtype B sequences collected between October 14, 2004, and February 24, 2012, from MSM in the Detroit metropolitan area, Michigan. These sequences were cross-referenced with a database of 30,200 patients diagnosed with HIV infection in the state of Michigan, which includes clinical information that is informative about the recency of infection at the time of diagnosis. These data were analyzed using recently developed population genetic methods that have enabled the estimation of transmission rates from the population-level genetic diversity of the virus. We found that genetic data are highly informative about HIV donors in ways that standard surveillance data are not. Genetic data are especially informative about the stage of infection of donors at the point of transmission. We estimate that 44.7% (95% CI, 42.2%–46.4%) of transmissions occur during the first year of infection.
Conclusions
In this study, almost half of transmissions occurred within the first year of HIV infection in MSM. Our conclusions may be sensitive to un-modeled intra-host evolutionary dynamics, un-modeled sexual risk behavior, and uncertainty in the stage of infected hosts at the time of sampling. The intensity of transmission during early infection may have significance for public health interventions based on early treatment of newly diagnosed individuals.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Since the first recorded case of AIDS in 1981, the number of people infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, has risen steadily. About 34 million people are currently HIV-positive, and about 2.5 million people become newly infected with HIV every year. Because HIV is usually transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected partner, individuals can reduce their risk of infection by abstaining from sex, by having only one or a few partners, and by always using condoms. Most people do not become ill immediately after infection with HIV, although some develop a short flu-like illness. The next stage of HIV infection, which may last more than ten years, also has no major symptoms, but during this stage, HIV slowly destroys immune system cells. Eventually, the immune system can no longer fight off infections by other disease-causing organisms, and HIV-positive people then develop one or more life-threatening AIDS-defining conditions, including unusual infections and specific types of cancer. HIV infection can be controlled, but not cured, by taking a daily cocktail of antiretroviral drugs.
Why Was This Study Done?
The design of effective programs to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS depends on knowing how HIV transmissibility varies over the course of HIV infection. Consider, for example, a prevention strategy that focuses on increasing treatment rates: antiretroviral drugs, in addition to reducing illness and death among HIV-positive people, reduce HIV transmission from HIV-positive individuals. “Treatment as prevention” can only block transmissions that occur after diagnosis and entry into care. However, the transmissibility of HIV per sexual contact depends on a person's viral load, which peaks during early HIV infection, when people are often unaware of their HIV status and may still be following the high-risk patterns of sexual behavior that caused their own infection. Epidemiological surveillance data (information on HIV infections within populations) can be used to estimate how many new HIV infections occur within a population annually (HIV incidence) and the proportion of the population that is HIV-positive (HIV prevalence), but cannot be used to estimate the timing of transmission events. In this study, the researchers use “phylodynamic analysis” to estimate HIV incidence and prevalence and the timing of HIV transmission during infection. HIV, like many other viruses, rapidly accumulates genetic changes. The timing of transmission influences the pattern of these changes. Viral phylodynamic analysis—the quantitative study of how epidemiological, immunological, and evolutionary processes shape viral phylogenies (evolutionary trees)—can therefore provide estimates of transmission dynamics.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers obtained HIV sequence data (collected for routine surveillance of antiretroviral resistance mutations) and epidemiological surveillance data (including information on the stage of infection at diagnosis) for 662 HIV-positive men who have sex with men living in the Detroit metropolitan area of Michigan. They constructed a phylogenetic tree from the sequences using a “relaxed clock” approach and then fitted an epidemiological model (a mathematical model that represents the progress of individual patients through various stages of HIV infection) to the sequence data. Their approach, which integrates surveillance data and genetic data, yielded estimates of HIV incidence and prevalence among the study population similar to those obtained from surveillance data alone. However, it also provided information about HIV transmission that could not be obtained from surveillance data alone. In particular, it allowed the researchers to estimate that, in the current HIV epidemic among men who have sex with men in Detroit, 44.7% of HIV transmissions occur during the first year of infection.
What Do These Findings Mean?
The robustness of these findings depends on the validity of the assumptions included in the researchers' population genetic model and on the accuracy of the data fed into the model, and may not be generalizable to other cities or to other risk groups. Nevertheless, the findings of this analysis, which can be repeated in any setting where HIV sequence data for individual patients can be linked to patient-specific clinical and behavioral information, have important implications for HIV control strategies based on the early treatment of newly diagnosed individuals. Because relatively few infected individuals are diagnosed during early HIV infection, when the HIV transmission rate is high, it is unlikely, suggest the researchers, that the “treatment as prevention” strategy will effectively control the spread of HIV unless there are very high rates of HIV testing and treatment.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001568.
This study is further discussed in a PLOS Medicine Perspective by Timothy Hallett
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 information on HIV treatment as prevention (in English and Spanish)
The PLOS Medicine Collection Investigating the Impact of Treatment on New HIV Infections provides more information about HIV treatment as prevention
A PLOS Computational Biology Topic Page (a review article that is a published copy of record of a dynamic version of the article as found in Wikipedia) about viral phylodynamics is available
The US National Institute of Health–funded HIV Sequence Database contains HIV sequences and tools to analyze these sequences
Patient stories about living with HIV/AIDS are available through Avert; the charity website Healthtalkonline also provides personal stories about living with HIV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001568
PMCID: PMC3858227  PMID: 24339751
20.  Detection of antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus in vaginal secretions by immunoglobulin G antibody capture enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay: application to detection of seminal antibodies after sexual intercourse. 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  1994;32(5):1249-1255.
In order to evaluate a commercial immunoglobulin G (IgG) antibody capture enzyme-linked immunoassay (ELISA) (Wellcozyme HIV1 + 2 Gacelisa; Murex Diagnostics Limited, Dartford, United Kingdom) for the detection of antibodies to human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) in vaginal secretion samples (VS) from HIV-seropositive and -seronegative women, serum samples (S) and VS were obtained from 129 African women living in the Central African Republic, a country of high HIV prevalence. Sera were tested for HIV by routine second-generation ELISA with confirmatory Western blot (immunoblot) (WB). By the Gacelisa IgG immuno-capture assay, 45 VS were positive and 84 were negative, whereas by WB, 44 VS were confirmed positive and 85 were confirmed negative. Considering WB as a reference, the IgG immunocapture assay in VS was 97.7% sensitive (43 of 44 positive samples) and 97.6% specific (83 of 85 negative samples). Of 42 HIV-seropositive women, 41 (97.6%) had S and VS that both were HIV positive (S+ VS+), and of 87 HIV-seronegative women, 83 (95.4%) had S and VS that both were HIV negative (S- VS-). Five women had discordant results for S and VS. One (S+ VS-) possibly had a false-negative VS result. Two (S- VS+) had similar indeterminate patterns for S and VS in WB. Two (S- VS+) had a typical HIV-positive pattern on WB of VS, whereas S results in WB were indeterminate in one case and negative in the other case; for both women, detection of prostatic acid-phosphatase was positive in VS, strongly suggesting recent sexual intercourse with an HIV-positive man. Because all HIV-infected men have detectable IgG antibodies to HIV in the seminal fluid, an HIV-seronegative rape victim with HIV-positive VS (S- VS+) should receive short-term antiviral therapy to prevent possible HIV transmission.
Images
PMCID: PMC263660  PMID: 8051252
21.  Sensitivity of the Procleix HIV-1/HCV Assay for Detection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Type 1 and Hepatitis C Virus RNA in a High-Risk Population 
Journal of Clinical Microbiology  2002;40(7):2387-2391.
The Procleix HIV-1/HCV Assay is a high-throughput nucleic acid test for the simultaneous detection of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) and hepatitis C virus (HCV) RNA during blood donor screening. This study evaluated the clinical sensitivity of the Procleix assay and assessed the assay's ability to identify HIV-1- and HCV-infected individuals undetected by standard serologic tests. Plasma samples were obtained prospectively from 539 individuals at high risk for HIV-1 and HCV infection at seven clinics affiliated with Johns Hopkins University. Samples were tested in the Procleix HIV-1/HCV Assay and, if reactive, were then tested in the Procleix HIV-1 and HCV discriminatory assays to differentiate the source of viral RNA positivity. Of these 539 subjects, 287 (53.2%) tested reactive in the Procleix HIV-1/HCV Assay. In discriminatory assay testing, 12 of 287 subjects (4.2%) were reactive for HIV-1 RNA only, 260 (90.6%) were reactive for HCV RNA only, and 11 (3.8%) were coinfected with HIV-1 and HCV. The clinical sensitivity for samples tested neat was 100% for HIV-1 and 99.3% for HCV. Three subjects with Procleix HCV reactive/seronegative results seroconverted upon follow-up and were confirmed as Procleix HCV yield cases. The Procleix HIV-1/HCV Assay is a highly sensitive test that detects ongoing and early HIV-1 and HCV infection in a significant number of subjects at high risk for these diseases. Confirmation of Procleix yield cases upon follow-up demonstrated the ability of the Procleix HIV-1/HCV Assay to detect the presence of HIV-1 and HCV in blood earlier than standard serologic tests.
doi:10.1128/JCM.40.7.2387-2391.2002
PMCID: PMC120572  PMID: 12089252
22.  HIV-DNA in the Genital Tract of Women on Long-Term Effective Therapy Is Associated to Residual Viremia and Previous AIDS-Defining Illnesses 
PLoS ONE  2013;8(8):e69686.
Objectives
To assess the impact of long-term combined antiretroviral therapy (cART) on HIV-RNA and HIV-DNA levels in cervicovaginal secretions of HIV-1-infected women with sustained undetectable plasma RNA viral load (PVL); to explore factors predictive of residual viral shedding; and to evaluate the risk of heterosexual transmission.
Methods
Women with undetectable PVL (<50 copies/mL) for >6 months were included in this cross-sectional study. HIV-RNA and HIV-DNA were measured in blood and cervicovaginal lavage fluid (CVL). Women were systematically tested for genital infections. The risk of transmission to male partners during unprotected intercourse was estimated.
Results
Eighty-one women composed the study population: all had HIV-RNA <40 copies/mL in CVL. HIV-DNA was detectable in CVL of 29/78 patients (37%). There was a weak positive correlation between HIV-DNA levels in PBMCs and CVL (r = 0.20; p = 0.08). In multivariate analysis, two factors were associated with HIV-DNA detection in CVL: previous AIDS-defining illnesses (OR = 11; 95%CI = 2–61) and current residual viremia (20
Conclusion
In our experience, HIV-RNA was undetectable in the genital tract of women with sustained control of PVL on cART. HIV-DNA shedding persisted in about one third of cases, with no substantial evidence of residual infectiousness.
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0069686
PMCID: PMC3749193  PMID: 23990886
PLoS Pathogens  2013;9(5):e1003347.
There is intense interest in developing curative interventions for HIV. How such a cure will be quantified and defined is not known. We applied a series of measurements of HIV persistence to the study of an HIV-infected adult who has exhibited evidence of cure after allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplant from a homozygous CCR5Δ32 donor. Samples from blood, spinal fluid, lymph node, and gut were analyzed in multiple laboratories using different approaches. No HIV DNA or RNA was detected in peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PBMC), spinal fluid, lymph node, or terminal ileum, and no replication-competent virus could be cultured from PBMCs. However, HIV RNA was detected in plasma (2 laboratories) and HIV DNA was detected in the rectum (1 laboratory) at levels considerably lower than those expected in ART-suppressed patients. It was not possible to obtain sequence data from plasma or gut, while an X4 sequence from PBMC did not match the pre-transplant sequence. HIV antibody levels were readily detectable but declined over time; T cell responses were largely absent. The occasional, low-level PCR signals raise the possibility that some HIV nucleic acid might persist, although they could also be false positives. Since HIV levels in well-treated individuals are near the limits of detection of current assays, more sensitive assays need to be developed and validated. The absence of recrudescent HIV replication and waning HIV-specific immune responses five years after withdrawal of treatment provide proof of a clinical cure.
Author Summary
There is intense interest in developing a cure for HIV. How such a cure will be quantified and defined is not known. We applied a series of measurements of HIV persistence to the study of an HIV+ adult who has exhibited evidence of cure after a stem cell transplant. Samples from blood, spinal fluid, lymph node, and gut were analyzed in multiple laboratories using different approaches. No HIV was detected in blood cells, spinal fluid, lymph node, or small intestine, and no infectious virus was recovered from blood. However, HIV was detected in plasma (2 laboratories) and HIV DNA was detected in the rectum (1 laboratory) at levels considerably lower than those expected in antiretroviral treated patients. The occasional, low-level HIV signals might be due to persistent HIV or might reflect false positives. The sensitivity of the current generation of assays to detect HIV RNA, HIV DNA, and infectious virus are close to the limits of detection. Improvements in these tests will be needed for future curative studies. The lack of rebounding virus after five years without therapy, the failure to isolate infectious virus, and the waning HIV-specific immune responses all indicate that the Berlin Patient has been effectively cured.
doi:10.1371/journal.ppat.1003347
PMCID: PMC3649997  PMID: 23671416
No commercial viral load assay has yet been approved for use for measurement of human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) RNA levels in plasma. We assessed the performance of the NucliSens EasyQ (version 1.1) assay (EasyQ; bioMérieux, Boxtel, The Netherlands) to quantify HIV-2 viremia. A viral stock was prepared from an HIV-2 (subtype A)-infected patient. Culture supernatant was subjected to viral particle counting by electron microscopy. Serial dilutions of the viral stock were made in HIV-negative plasma and were used to test EasyQ for its sensitivity, linearity, and reproducibility. RNA was quantified by the NucliSens EasyQ (version 1.1) assay. Plasma samples from 75 HIV-2-infected patients were further tested. EasyQ was able to quantify HIV-2 RNA in a reproducible manner. Overall, estimates of the number of HIV-2 RNA copies/ml obtained with EasyQ were lower than those obtained by electron microscopy; however, the differences were always less than 0.7 log (mean, 0.55 ± 0.19 log10). The assay showed good linearity (r2 = 0.964; P < 0.0001). The agreement between both measures was assessed by use of a Bland-Altman plot; the narrow limits (0.158 to 0.952), defined as the mean difference ± 2 standard deviations, indicated good agreement. The reproducibility was also good, since the between-run coefficients of variation were 1.49, 3.60, and 12.25% for samples containing 6.30, 4.30, and 2.30 log10 HIV-2 RNA copies/ml, respectively. HIV-2 RNA was detected in 34 of 75 (45%) plasma specimens (mean, 2.72 log RNA copies/ml; range, 1.74 to 4.11 log RNA copies/ml); the rest of the specimens were considered to have undetectable viremia. A negative correlation was found between the number of HIV-2 RNA copies/ml and CD4 counts. In summary, EasyQ was shown to be reliable for the measurement of plasma HIV-2 subtype A RNA levels and may be a feasible tool for routine clinical monitoring of HIV-2 subtype A-infected patients.
doi:10.1128/JCM.01613-06
PMCID: PMC1828987  PMID: 17093034
PLoS Medicine  2012;9(12):e1001351.
Kalpana Sabapathy and colleagues conduct a systematic review and meta-analysis to assess the acceptability of home-based voluntary counseling and testing for HIV in sub-Saharan Africa with some encouraging results.
Introduction
Improving access to HIV testing is a key priority in scaling up HIV treatment and prevention services. Home-based voluntary counselling and testing (HBT) as an approach to delivering wide-scale HIV testing is explored here.
Methods and Findings
We conducted a systematic review and random-effects meta-analysis of studies published between 1 January 2000 and 24 September 2012 that reported on uptake of HBT in sub-Saharan Africa, to assess the proportion of individuals accepting HBT and receiving their test result.
Our initial search yielded 1,199 articles; 114 were reviewed as full-text articles, and 19 publications involving 21 studies (n = 524,867 individuals offered HBT) were included for final review and meta-analysis. The studies came from five countries: Uganda, Malawi, Kenya, South Africa, and Zambia.
The proportion of people who accepted HBT (n = 474,377) ranged from 58.1% to 99.8%, with a pooled proportion of 83.3% (95% CI: 80.4%–86.1%). Heterogeneity was high (τ2 = 0.11). Sixteen studies reported on the number of people who received the result of HBT (n = 432,835). The proportion of individuals receiving their results out of all those offered testing ranged from 24.9% to 99.7%, with a pooled proportion of 76.7% (95% CI: 73.4%–80.0%) (τ2 = 0.12). HIV prevalence ranged from 2.9% to 36.5%. New diagnosis of HIV following HBT ranged from 40% to 79% of those testing positive. Forty-eight percent of the individuals offered testing were men, and they were just as likely to accept HBT as women (pooled odds ratio = 0.84; 95% CI: 0.56–1.26) (τ2 = 0.33). The proportion of individuals previously tested for HIV among those offered a test ranged from 5% to 66%. Studies in which <30% of individuals had been previously tested, local HIV prevalence was <10%, incentives were provided, or HBT was offered to household members of HIV-positive individuals showed higher uptake of testing. No evidence was reported of negative consequences of HBT.
Conclusions
HBT could substantially increase awareness of HIV status in previously undiagnosed individuals in sub-Saharan Africa, with over three-quarters of the studies in this review reporting >70% uptake. It could be a valuable tool for treatment and prevention efforts.
Please see later in the article for the Editors' Summary
Editors' Summary
Background
Knowledge of HIV status is crucial for both the prevention and treatment of HIV. However, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (the UN agency responsible for HIV/AIDS), in low-and-middle-income countries only ten percent of those who need voluntary counseling and testing, because they may have been exposed to HIV infection, have access to this service. Even in health care settings in which voluntary counseling and HIV testing is routinely offered, such as to pregnant women, the number of people who use these services is low. This situation is partly because of the stigma and discrimination associated with HIV, which makes people reluctant to volunteer to come forward to be tested for HIV. To help overcome this problem, one important strategy in encouraging people to be tested for HIV is to offer them the opportunity to be counseled and tested at home—home-based voluntary counseling and testing (HBT). Using the HBT approach, people are visited in their home by health workers regardless of their perceived risk of HIV. HBT has obvious advantages and upholds the “3 Cs” principles of HIV testing: that testing is confidential, accompanied by counseling, and conducted only with informed consent.
Why Was This Study Done?
The HBT approach has received widespread international support, and the World Health Organization has recently published guidance to service providers and policy makers about the delivery of HBT. However, the acceptability of HBT, that is, whether those offered HBT actually take up the offer and are tested, remains unknown, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, the world region with the highest prevalence of HIV. So, in this study, the researchers systematically compiled all of the available studies on this topic from sub-Saharan Africa to determine the acceptability of HBT and also to and identify any factors associated with the uptake of HBT.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers searched several databases to identify suitable peer-reviewed studies from Africa published between January 2000 and September 2012. The researchers included studies that described any intervention to provide HIV testing at home and also reported the proportions of participants accepting HIV testing out of all individuals offered a home-based HIV test. Because different types of studies were included (such as randomized controlled trials, observational cohort studies, and cross-sectional surveys), the researchers tested the quality of included studies. Then they pooled all of the studies together to calculate the overall proportion of people who accepted HIV testing at home and the proportion who received their result.
Using these methods, the researchers included 21 studies from five African countries: Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, and Zambia, comprising a total of 524,867 people. Overall, the proportion of people who accepted HBT ranged from 58.1% to 99.7%, with a pooled proportion of 83.3% accepting HBT (474,377 people). In the eight studies that separated data by gender, men were as likely as women to accept testing (78.5% versus 81.5%). Over three-quarters of everyone who accepted HBT received their result (77% in 16 studies reporting on this), and, importantly, the proportion of people with previously undiagnosed HIV was high (40%–79% of those diagnosed HIV-positive), emphasizing the value of HBT. The researchers also found that providing incentives, local HIV prevalence being less than 10%, and targeting HBT to household members of HIV-positive individuals may be factors associated with increased uptake of HBT, but further research is needed to verify the results of this subgroup analysis.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that voluntary counseling and testing for HIV at home is highly acceptable in five countries in sub-Saharan Africa, with the majority of those tested receiving their test result, highlighting the importance of this approach in the diagnosis of HIV. Therefore, by increasing uptake of testing, HBT may provide an effective tool for governments and health service providers to increase access to HIV treatment and prevention. However, testing is just the first step in the management of HIV, and this study does not address the follow-up of those who tested positive using the home-based approach, such as access to treatment, as well as repeated HBT for ongoing knowledge of HIV status. The option of self-testing was examined in only one of the studies included in this review, but the researchers identify that self-testing at home with the support HBT staff is an important area of future research. Overall, HBT has the potential to substantially increase awareness of HIV status in previously undiagnosed men and women in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additional Information
Please access these websites via the online version of this summary at http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pmed.1001351.
The World Health Organization provides extensive information on HIV testing and counseling, and the World Health Organization's guidance on home-based testing mentioned in this summary is also available
The Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS gives the latest facts and figures about the global status of HIV and about reducing stigma and discrimination around HIV
doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001351
PMCID: PMC3514284  PMID: 23226107

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