Cyclic Shedding of HIV-1 RNA in Cervical Secretions during the Menstrual Cycle

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The association between hormone fluctuations during the menstrual cycle and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) RNA shedding in cervical and vaginal secretions was examined daily for 17 HIV-l-seropositive women, for the duration of 1 cycle. Serum levels of RNA were evaluated 3 times/week. A marginally significant positive correlation between serum levels of progesterone and serum levels of HIV-1 RNA(P =.04) was observed. Cervical virus levels were significantly correlated with the number of days from the midcycle surge in luteinizing hormone (LH)(P =.008). The lowest levels of cervical HIV-1 RNA were present at the LH surge, and this nadir was followed by an increase in virus levels that reached a maximum before the start of menses. In contrast, there was no significant association between the number of days from the LH surge and the level of HIV-1 RNA in vaginal secretions(P =.4). These data support the hypothesis that the level of HIV-1 RNA in cervical secretions is influenced by the menstrual cycle, and they suggest that the risk of heterosexual transmission of HIV-1 may increase as menses is approached.

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