April 2, 2012
HIV-positive men who have sex with men may still be at risk of spreading the virus even while taking strong antiretrovirals, says a new report from Boston researchers. According to scientists from the Boston University School of Medicine and Fenway Health, highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART), the primary treatment for HIV/AIDS, does not fully suppress HIV in the semen of sexually active MSM with the virus.
Of the 101 MSM recruited for the study, all Fenway Health patients, 18 percent had detectable levels of HIV in their blood, and 30 percent had HIV in their semen. Among those men with no detectable HIV in their blood, a quarter still had HIV in their semen -- a finding strongly associated with unprotected sex, STDs, and genital inflammation.
"Men who have sex with men, who are at risk for transmitting HIV, may believe that they have a low risk based on incorrect assumptions that HAART eliminates HIV from semen," said study lead author Joseph Politch, a research associate professor in obstetrics and gynecology at Boston University.
Until additional information is available, it would be "prudent" for sexually active HIV-positive MSM "to use condoms and other risk-reduction strategies," Politch advised.
The study, "Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy Does Not Completely Suppress HIV in Semen of Sexually Active HIV-Infected Men Who Have Sex with Men," was published online in AIDS (2012;doi:10.1097/QAD.0b013e32835b11b).