SATURDAY, Dec. 1 (HealthDay News) -- Providing antiretroviral
therapy for the HIV-infected partner in a couple where only one
person has HIV can help protect the uninfected partner from getting
the virus, at least in the short term, according to a new
Couples in which one partner has HIV while the other does not
are known as "serodiscordant." The new study included more than
38,000 such couples in China who were followed for up to nine
years. In about 24,000 of the couples, the HIV-infected partner
received antiretroviral therapy.
The rate of HIV transmission to the uninfected partner was 26
percent lower in couples where the infected partner received
antiretroviral therapy than in couples that received no
The protective effect of antiretroviral therapy, however, seemed
to last for only one year, with HIV transmission rates becoming
similar after the first year for treated and untreated couples,
noted Yiming Shao, of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and
Prevention, and colleagues.
They also found that prevention with antiretroviral treatment
was not as effective when HIV-positive partners used injection
drugs or had very high CD4 cell counts. Levels of CD4 cells -- a
type of white blood cell that fights infection -- are used to
monitor HIV progression.
The study was published online Nov. 30 in the journal
Overall, the findings support evidence from previous studies
that antiretroviral treatment for HIV-infect partners in
serodiscordant couples is a feasible and effective way to reduce
HIV transmission to the uninfected partner, Shao concluded in a
journal news release.
In an accompanying journal commentary, Sten Vermund, a professor
at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, described the results as
"encouraging." However, he questioned, "Can community, regional,
national and international expertise and resources be mobilized to
offer testing to all at-risk people at least yearly, link all
infected people to care and offer antiretroviral therapy to a much
higher proportion of infected people than receive it at present,
alongside expanded combination prevention activities?"
The World Health Organization recommends that all HIV-positive
partners in serodiscordant couples be offered antiretroviral
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