via European AIDS Treatment Group, by Michael Carter

Viral load in the blood and rectal secretions of HIV-positive gay men are highly correlated, according to US research published in the September 1st edition of the Journal of Infectious Diseases. The study also showed that the presence of sexually transmitted infections did not increase rectal viral load.

Individuals with a plasma viral load above 1000 copies/ml were significantly more likely to have detectable virus in the rectum.

“Our data add substantially to the few published studies of HIV shedding in rectal secretions of MSM [men who have sex with men],” comment the investigators, “we were able to quantify HIV RNA in rectal secretions, demonstrate the linear correlation between increasing plasma load and rectal viral load and determine a threshold plasma viral load that distinguished detectable from undetectable rectal viral load.”

They also believe that their findings have important implications for current debates about the use of HIV treatment as prevention, commenting: “Combination antiretroviral therapy will have a similar effect on reducing HIV transmission in MSM, as seen in studies of heterosexual discordant couples.”

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