Brief Report: HIV-1 Transmissions During Asymptomatic Infection

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High HIV-1 plasma viral loads (PVLs) in sub-Saharan Africa, partly because of high rates of coinfection, may have been one of the drivers of the “explosive” epidemics seen in that region. Using a previously published framework of infectiousness and survival, we estimate the excess onward HIV-1 transmission events (secondary infections) resulting from coinfection-induced changes in PVL during asymptomatic HIV-1 infection. For every 100 HIV-infected people, each suffering 1 episode of tuberculosis infection, there are 4.9 (2.7th–97.5th percentile: 0.2–21.5) excess onward HIV-1 transmission events attributable to this coinfection. Other estimates are malaria 0.4 (0.0–2.0), soil-transmitted helminths 3.1 (0.1–14.9), schistosomiasis 8.5 (0.2–38.6), filariasis 13.3 (0.3–89.2), syphilis 0.1 (0.0–1.6), herpes simplex virus 4.0 (0.0–24.2), and gonorrhea 2.1 (0.1–8.0) transmissions. If these higher PVLs confer a shorter life expectancy and higher infectiousness, then their impact on transmission is, in general, reduced. For most HIV-1 coinfections, the duration of a single infection is too short and/or the associated PVL elevation is too modest to contribute substantially to onward HIV-1 transmission.

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