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1.  Therapeutic Immunization with HIV-1 Tat Reduces Immune Activation and Loss of Regulatory T-Cells and Improves Immune Function in Subjects on HAART 
PLoS ONE  2010;5(11):e13540.
Although HAART suppresses HIV replication, it is often unable to restore immune homeostasis. Consequently, non-AIDS-defining diseases are increasingly seen in treated individuals. This is attributed to persistent virus expression in reservoirs and to cell activation. Of note, in CD4+ T cells and monocyte-macrophages of virologically-suppressed individuals, there is continued expression of multi-spliced transcripts encoding HIV regulatory proteins. Among them, Tat is essential for virus gene expression and replication, either in primary infection or for virus reactivation during HAART, when Tat is expressed, released extracellularly and exerts, on both the virus and the immune system, effects that contribute to disease maintenance. Here we report results of an ad hoc exploratory interim analysis (up to 48 weeks) on 87 virologically-suppressed HAART-treated individuals enrolled in a phase II randomized open-label multicentric clinical trial of therapeutic immunization with Tat (ISS T-002). Eighty-eight virologically-suppressed HAART-treated individuals, enrolled in a parallel prospective observational study at the same sites (ISS OBS T-002), served for intergroup comparison. Immunization with Tat was safe, induced durable immune responses, and modified the pattern of CD4+ and CD8+ cellular activation (CD38 and HLA-DR) together with reduction of biochemical activation markers and persistent increases of regulatory T cells. This was accompanied by a progressive increment of CD4+ T cells and B cells with reduction of CD8+ T cells and NK cells, which were independent from the type of antiretroviral regimen. Increase in central and effector memory and reduction in terminally-differentiated effector memory CD4+ and CD8+ T cells were accompanied by increases of CD4+ and CD8+ T cell responses against Env and recall antigens. Of note, more immune-compromised individuals experienced greater therapeutic effects. In contrast, these changes were opposite, absent or partial in the OBS population. These findings support the use of Tat immunization to intensify HAART efficacy and to restore immune homeostasis.
Trial registration
ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00751595
doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0013540
PMCID: PMC2978690  PMID: 21085635
2.  Self-reported history of Pap-smear in HIV-positive women in Northern Italy: a cross-sectional study 
BMC Cancer  2010;10:310.
Background
The incidence of invasive cervical cancer in HIV-positive women is higher than in the general population. There is evidence that HIV-positive women do not participate sufficiently in cervical cancer screening in Italy, where cervical cancer is more than 10-fold higher in women with AIDS than in the general population. The aim of the present study was to evaluate the history of Pap-smear in HIV-positive women in Italy in recent years. We also examined the sociodemographic, clinical, and organizational factors associated with adherence to cervical cancer screening.
Methods
A cross-sectional study was conducted between July 2006 and June 2007 in Emilia-Romagna region (Northern Italy). All HIV-positive women who received a follow-up visit in one of the 10 regional infectivology units were invited to participate. History of Pap-smear, including abnormal smears and subsequent treatment, was investigated through a self-administered anonymous questionnaire. The association between lack of Pap-smear in the year preceding the interview and selected characteristics was assessed by means of odds ratios (OR) and 95% confidence intervals adjusted for study centre and age.
Results
A total of 1,002 HIV-positive women were interviewed. Nine percent reported no history of Pap-smear, and 39% had no Pap-smear in the year prior to the date of questionnaire (last year). The lack of Pap-smear in the last year was significantly associated with age <35 years (OR = 1.4, compared to age ≥45 years), lower education level (OR = 1.3), first HIV-positive test in the last 2 years (OR = 1.4), and CD4 count <200 cells/μl (OR = 1.6). Conversely, when women were advised by a gynecologist rather than other health workers to undergo screening, it significantly increased adherence. Non-significantly higher proportions of lack of Pap-smear in the last year were found in women born in Central-Eastern Europe (OR = 1.8) and Africa (OR = 1.3). No difference in history of Pap-smear emerged by mode of HIV-acquisition or AIDS status.
Three hundred five (34%) women reported a previous abnormal Pap-smear, and of the 178 (58%) referred for treatment, 97% complied.
Conclusions
In recent years the self-reported history of Pap-smear in HIV-positive women, in some public clinics in Italy, is higher than previously reported, but further efforts are required to make sure cervical cancer screening is accessible to all HIV-positive women.
doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-310
PMCID: PMC2904281  PMID: 20565935
3.  Different patterns of HIV-1 DNA after therapy discontinuation 
Background
By persisting in infected cells for a long period of time, proviral HIV-1 DNA can represent an alternative viral marker to RNA viral load during the follow-up of HIV-1 infected individuals. In the present study sequential blood samples of 10 patients under antiretroviral treatment from 1997 with two NRTIs, who refused to continue any antiviral regimen, were analyzed for 16 – 24 weeks to study the possible relationship between DNA and RNA viral load.
Methods
The amount of proviral DNA was quantified by SYBR green real-time PCR in peripheral blood mononuclear cells from a selected group of ten patients with different levels of plasmatic viremia (RNA viral load).
Results
Variable levels of proviral DNA were found without any significant correlation between proviral load and plasma HIV-1 RNA levels. Results obtained showed an increase or a rebound in viral DNA in most patients, suggesting that the absence of therapy reflects an increase and/or a persistence of cells containing viral DNA.
Conclusion
Even though plasma HIV RNA levels remain the basic parameter to monitor the intensity of viral replication, the results obtained seem to indicate that DNA levels could represent an adjunct prognostic marker in monitoring HIV-1 infected subjects.
doi:10.1186/1471-2334-5-69
PMCID: PMC1236926  PMID: 16156892

Results 1-3 (3)