People With Moderate HIV Viral Loads More Likely To Transmit Virus

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People with moderate HIV viral loads are more likely to transmit thevirus to a larger number of people over time than those with high viralloads, according to a study published Monday in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Reuters reports. Lead researcher Christophe Fraser of Imperial College Londonand colleagues examined several groups of HIV-positive people inAfrica, Europe and the U.S. They also analyzed previously publishedEuropean and African studies that examined viral load, infectiousnessand mortality.

The researchers focused on people with moderateviral loads because such individuals might not show symptoms orprogress to AIDS for about seven to eight years, Reutersreports. Fraser said people with high viral loads typically progress toAIDS in a short period of time -- about two to three years. Inaddition, although individuals with high viral loads are the mostinfectious group, they have a limited amount of time to transmit thevirus to others, according to the researchers. "The surprise was thatthose people with high viral loads actually infected fewer peoplebecause they progressed to AIDS more quickly," Fraser said.

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Peoplewith moderate viral loads also form the largest, most common group notto receive treatment access, so these individuals likely play a largerrole in contributing to the spread of HIV, the researchers said.

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Fraser said the findings suggest that targeting people with the highestHIV viral loads might not be the most effective approach to fightingthe spread of the virus. The findings also suggest that HIV hasadjusted to reach the optimal balance between infectiousness andvirulence to increase its chances of spreading, Fraser said. "We nowwant to see whether the virus has adapted in order to allow it toinfect the most people, which seems plausible given the results of ourstudy," Fraser said, adding, "While it is too early to sound the alarm,more research to prove or disprove this theory is urgently needed"(Kahn, Reuters, 10/22).

Reprinted with permission from kaisernetwork.org. You can view theentire Kaiser DailyHIV/AIDS Report, search the archives, and sign up for email delivery at kaisernetwork.org/email . The Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report ispublished for kaisernetwork.org, a free service of The Henry J. Kaiser FamilyFoundation.

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