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AIDS. 2000 Mar 10;14(4):415-21.

Effect of highly active antiretroviral therapy on cervicovaginal HIV-1 RNA.

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Brown University, Providence, RI, USA.



To determine the frequency of cervicovaginal lavage and plasma HIV-1 RNA levels that are below detectable levels (< 400 copies/ml) among women on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), non-HAART and on no therapy. To compare the effect of initiating HAART on the timing of HIV-1 RNA suppression in the blood plasma and genital tract among antiretroviral-naïve women.


Data were obtained from 205 HIV-infected women with paired plasma and cervicovaginal lavage viral load measurements. Seven antiretroviral-naïve women starting HAART had viral load measurements performed daily for one week, at 2 weeks and at 1 month after initiating therapy. Viral load quantification was carried out by nucleic acid sequence-based amplification assay. The lower limit of detection was 400 copies/ml.


Plasma and cervicovaginal HIV-1 RNA was detectable in 71 and 26% of the women, respectively. Among women with plasma viral loads less than 400, 400-9999, and 10,000 copies/ml or over, genital tract HIV-1 RNA was detected in 3, 17 and 48%, respectively (P < 0.001). Fifty-one per cent of the women with CD4 cell counts of less than 200/mm3 had detectable cervicovaginal viral loads compared with 18% among women with CD4 cell counts of 200/mm3 or over (P < 0.001). Cervicovaginal HIV-1 RNA was less than 400 copies/ml in 85% of those on HAART, 69% of those on non-HAART and 69% of those on no therapy (P < 0.045). In seven antiretroviral-naïve women initiating HAART, cervicovaginal HIV-1 RNA decreased by 0.7-2.1 log10 within 1-14 days of starting therapy.


The cervicovaginal HIV-1 RNA level was positively correlated with plasma HIV-1 RNA and negatively with the CD4 cell count. The use of HAART was significantly associated with below-detectable levels of HIV-1 RNA in both plasma and the genital tract. HIV-1 RNA suppression in the genital tract may occur rapidly after initiating therapy.

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