Quantification of HIV in semen: correlation with antiviral treatment and immune status

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Objective:This study examined the concentration of HIV in semen and the effects of biological factors on HIV excretion.Methods:Semen samples from 101 men at different stages of the disease were evaluated by quantitative HIV culture and HIV RNA detection. Blood plasma samples were available from 56 patients. The effects of CD4 and CD8 count, blood plasma RNA levels, treatment status and clinical staging on the shedding of HIV were evaluated.Results:HIV RNA levels in semen correlated with quantitative HIV culture of seminal cells and a strong association of positive seminal cell culture with high RNA levels was observed. CD4 count and antiviral treatment were inversely correlated with the concentration of HIV in semen. Blood plasma HIV RNA values were correlated with HIV RNA levels in semen, although some patients had highly discrepant results.Conclusions:The strong correlation between seminal cell culture and concentration of HIV RNA in seminal plasma suggested that HIV detected in seminal plasma was released by productively infected cells in the male genital tract. The study showed that the concentration of HIV in semen, which was likely to be correlated with HIV infectivity, was a function of the immune status of the HIV-infected individual. The results suggested that antiviral therapy may have reduced the concentration of HIV in semen.

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