Send to:

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Lancet. 2010 Jun 12;375(9731):2092-8. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(10)60705-2. Epub 2010 May 26.

Heterosexual HIV-1 transmission after initiation of antiretroviral therapy: a prospective cohort analysis.

Author information

  • 1Statistical Center for HIV/AIDS Research and Prevention and the Vaccine and Infectious Disease Institute, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle, WA 98109, USA.



High plasma HIV-1 RNA concentrations are associated with increased risk of HIV-1 transmission. Initiation of antiretroviral therapy (ART) reduces plasma HIV-1 concentrations. We aimed to assess the effect of ART use by patients infected with HIV-1 on risk of transmission to their uninfected partners.


Participants in our prospective cohort analysis were from a randomised placebo-controlled trial that enrolled heterosexual African adults who were seropositive for both HIV-1 and herpes simplex virus type 2, and their HIV-1 seronegative partners. At enrolment, HIV-1 infected participants had CD4 counts of 250 cells per microL or greater and did not meet national guidelines for ART initiation; during 24 months of follow-up, CD4 counts were measured every 6 months and ART was initiated in accordance with national guidelines. Uninfected partners were tested for HIV-1 every 3 months. The primary outcome was genetically-linked HIV-1 transmission within the study partnership. We assessed rates of HIV-1 transmission by ART status of infected participants.


3381 couples were eligible for analysis. 349 (10%) participants with HIV-1 initiated ART during the study, at a median CD4 cell count of 198 (IQR 161-265) cells per microL. Only one of 103 genetically-linked HIV-1 transmissions was from an infected participant who had started ART, corresponding to transmission rates of 0.37 (95% CI 0.09-2.04) per 100 person-years in those who had initiated treatment and 2.24 (1.84-2.72) per 100 person-years in those who had not-a 92% reduction (adjusted incidence rate ratio 0.08, 95% CI 0.00-0.57, p=0.004). In participants not on ART, the highest HIV-1 transmission rate (8.79 per 100 person-years) was from those with CD4 cell counts lower than 200 cells per microL. In couples in whom the untreated HIV-1 infected partner had a CD4 cell count greater than 200 cells per microL, 66 (70%) of 94 transmissions occurred when plasma HIV-1 concentrations exceeded 50 000 copies per mL.


Low CD4 cell counts and high plasma HIV-1 concentrations might guide use of ART to achieve an HIV-1 prevention benefit. Provision of ART to HIV-1 infected patients could be an effective strategy to achieve population-level reductions in HIV-1 transmission.


Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; US National Institutes of Health.

Copyright 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for Elsevier Science Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Write to the Help Desk