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The XVII International AIDS Conference (AIDS 2008)
  
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Medical News

Risk of HIV Transmission From Heterosexual Intercourse Could Be Underestimated, Study Finds

August 6, 2008

The standard method for assessing risk of HIV transmission through heterosexual intercourse could be flawed, according to a study published in the Lancet Infectious Diseases and presented at the XVII International AIDS Conference on Tuesday, AFP/iAfrica.com reports.

According to the study, a "yardstick" widely used by epidemiologists to determine HIV risk could have helped "fuel misperceptions" that HIV risk is lower for heterosexuals, AFP/iAfrica.com reports. The yardstick suggests that transmission of HIV occurs on average once per 1,000 acts of heterosexual intercourse by couples where only one individual is HIV-positive. However, the study said that the measurement is based on "stable couples" with few risk factors and that in other scenarios, risk factors can increase the chance of transmission by between several times and several hundred times, AFP/iAfrica.com reports.

The study, led by Kimberly Powers of the University of North Carolina, conducted a systematic review of estimated of heterosexual infectivity and found a wide range of results, ranging from zero transmission of HIV after more than 100 acts of heterosexual vaginal intercourse in one study to a rate of HIV transmission of once out of every 3.1 acts of heterosexual anal intercourse.

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The study said HIV risks could be amplified by other factors, such as men who are not circumcised, partners who have genital ulcers or if a partner is at the early or late stage of HIV, when viral loads are higher. In addition, researchers do not know the risks of HIV transmission for certain sexual behaviors, including oral sex.

According to the researchers, "The use of a single, 'one-size-fits-all' value for the heterosexual infectivity of HIV-1 obscures important differences associated with transmission co-factors." They added that the measurement of one infection per 1,000 acts of intercourse "seems to represent a lower bound. As such, this value substantially underestimates the infectivity of HIV-1 in many heterosexual contexts" (AFP/iAfrica.com, 8/5).

Online The study is available online.

Kaisernetwork.org is the official webcaster of the XVII International AIDS Conference in Mexico City. Click here to sign up for your Daily Update e-mail during the conference.

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Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view the entire Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, or sign up for email delivery at www.kaisernetwork.org/dailyreports/hiv. The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report is published for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of the Kaiser Family Foundation, by The Advisory Board Company. © 2008 by The Advisory Board Company and Kaiser Family Foundation. All rights reserved.


  
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This article was provided by Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation. It is a part of the publication Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report. Visit the Kaiser Family Foundation's website to find out more about their activities, publications and services.
 
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AIDS 2008 Newsroom



Please note: Knowledge about HIV changes rapidly. Note the date of this summary's publication, and before treating patients or employing any therapies described in these materials, verify all information independently. If you are a patient, please consult a doctor or other medical professional before acting on any of the information presented in this summary. For a complete listing of our most recent conference coverage, click here.

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