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This Week In HIV Research

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This Week in HIV Research: Case of HIV Remission for Over 12 Years; Condomless Sex Rates; Semen Exposure and HIV Resistance

December 11, 2015

This week, we see published results detailing a case of HIV remission lasting more than 12 years after stopping treatment. Another study compares rates of condomless sex among young gay men with detectable and undetectable viral loads. Plus, a study in female sex workers reveals a possible connection between continued semen exposure and HIV resistance. Finally, a new Centers for Disease Control (CDC) report finds that sex education in U.S. schools is extremely lacking.

To beat HIV, you have to follow the science!


HIV Remission

Case of HIV Remission Lasting More Than 12 Years After Treatment Interruption

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A French woman has been able to maintain an undetectable viral load for more than 12 years after stopping antiretroviral therapy, which was started shortly after birth, according to a study published in The Lancet. The findings were first presented at IAS 2015, in Vancouver, Canada.

The young woman was infected during birth in 1996 and was given zidovudine (AZT, Retrovir) as prophylactic treatment. She achieved an undetectable viral load and zidovudine treatment was stopped at six weeks. However, at three months, her viral load increased sharply and she was started on combination antiretroviral therapy.

Her family stopped treatment sometime between 5.8 and 6.8 years of age, and her viral load has remained undetectable ever since, despite not being on treatment.

"Findings from this case suggest that long-term HIV-1 remission is possible in perinatally infected children who receive treatment early, with characteristics similar to those reported in adult HIV post-treatment controllers," the researchers conclude, with further study being needed to understand the mechanisms behind HIV remission.


Behavioral Science

Young Men With Detectable Viral Loads More Likely to Have Condomless Sex Than Those Virally Suppressed

Young men who have sex with men (MSM) and have detectable viral loads were more likely to report condomless anal sex with an HIV-negative partner, when compared to young MSM with undetectable viral loads, according to a study published in JAMA Pediatrics.

The study followed 991 young MSM between the ages of 15 and 26, for about three years. Nearly 55% of those with detectable viral loads reported having condomless sex, compared to 44% of those with undetectable viral loads. Furthermore, 35% of those with detectable viral loads reported having condomless sex with an HIV-negative partner, compared to 25% of those with undetectable viral loads.

"We must remain engaged in finding new behavioral approaches for those young men who have yet to seek HIV testing, antiretroviral treatment, and adhere to viral suppression activities," said lead author Patrick A. Wilson, Ph.D., according to the study press release.


HIV Prevention

Have Sex Workers Revealed a Connection Between Semen Exposure and HIV Resistance?

Continued long-term semen exposure in female sex workers is associated with cervical and vaginal changes, as well as immune activation, that increase HIV resistance, according to a study in Puerto Rico. The study set out to examine why some female sex workers in places with high HIV prevalence continue to test negative for HIV, despite high rates of condomless sex.

"It is important to note that the study does not make a case for sexual intercourse without a condom, as doing so will increase the overall risk of HIV infection and other sexually transmitted diseases," said lead study author Luis J. Montaner, D.V.M., D.Phil., according to the study press release. "Instead, this study identifies unexpected effects that long-term semen exposure may have on the cervix and vagina that may lower but not remove the likelihood of infection."

According to the study press release, the researchers found three distinct mechanisms that may be associated with lower susceptibility to HIV:

  • Lower rates of immune activation in the blood and mucosal tissue, which actually hinders transmission because the virus thrives in activated immune systems.
  • Higher levels of interferon ε in epithelial cells, which are signaling proteins that help protect the female reproductive tract from infections.
  • Lower levels of genes, such as CD4 and nucleoporin 153, in the mucosal tissue that help HIV survive.

Sex Education Not Adequate in Most U.S. Schools

In the U.S., fewer than half of high schools and just one in five middle schools teach all the essential, CDC-recommended sex education topics, according to a new CDC report.

Improving sex education across the country is especially important considering that nearly one-quarter of HIV diagnoses and half of all sexually transmitted infections (STIs) occur in those under the age of 25, according to the CDC press release.

Is there a development this week in HIV research that you think we missed? Send us a tip!

Warren Tong is the senior science editor for TheBody.com and TheBodyPRO.com.

Follow Warren on Twitter: @WarrenAtTheBody.


Copyright © 2015 Remedy Health Media, LLC. All rights reserved.




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