Impact of rectal gonorrhoea and chlamydia on HIV viral load in the rectum: potential significance for onward transmission

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Abstract

The aim of this study was to investigate the effect of asymptomatic rectal bacterial sexually transmitted infections (STIs) on rectal HIV viral load (VL). A prospective cohort study of HIV-positive men who have sex with men attending a tertiary centre in London, UK, for their routine HIV care was performed. Forty-two HIV-positive men who have sex with men were recruited between January and August 2014. In participants on antiretroviral therapy (ART), there was no significant difference in rectal VL in those with and without STI (p = 0.4). All rectal HIV VLs were below the limit of detection (<100 copies/µg of total RNA) whether an STI was present or not. In those not on ART, rectal HIV VL was on average 0.6log10 lower post STI treatment. The presence of asymptomatic rectal chlamydia and gonorrhoea was not associated with increased rectal HIV VL in those fully suppressed on ART. In the context of effective ART, the presence of rectal gonorrhoea or chlamydia does not appear to increase rectal HIV VL and the risk of increased viral infectivity.

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