Objective: To longitudinally assess the association between plasma viral load (PVL) and genital tract human immunodeficiency virus (GT HIV) RNA among HIV-1 infected women changing highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) because of detectable PVL on current treatment. Methods: Women were eligible for the study if they had detectable PVL (defined as two consecutive samples with PVL>1000 copies/mL) and intended to change their current HAART regimen at the time of enrollment. Paired plasma and GT HIV-1 RNA were measured prospectively over 3 years. Longitudinal analyses examined rates of GT HIV-1 RNA shedding and the association with PVL. Results: Sixteen women were followed for a median of 11 visits contributing a total of 205 study visits. At study enrollment, all had detectable PVL and 69% had detectable GT HIV-1 RNA. Half of the women changed to a new HAART regimen with ≥3 active antiretroviral drugs. The probability of having detectable PVL ≥30 days after changing HAART was 0.56 (95% CI: 0.37 to 0.74). Fourteen women (88%) had detectable PVL on a follow-up visit ≥30 or 60 days after changing HAART; and 12 women (75%) had detectable GT HIV-1 RNA on a follow-up visit ≥30 or 60 days after changing HAART. When PVL was undetectable, GT shedding occurred at 11% of visits, and when PVL was detectable, GT shedding occurred at 47% of visits. Conclusions: Some treatment-experienced HIV-infected women continue to have detectable virus in both the plasma and GT following a change in HAART, highlighting the difficulty of viral suppression in this patient population.
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