The risk of HIV transmission via heterosexual intercourse is highest early in the course of HIV infection, before most infected people know their HIV status, according to a new study published in the May 1 issue of The Journal of Infectious Diseases, now available online.
Conducted by a group of investigators led by Maria J. Wawer of Columbia University, the study is the first to present empirical data showing that the rate of heterosexual HIV transmission per coital act varies over the course of HIV infection. The investigators found that the risk of transmission was highest early in infection, then dropped, then rose again late in infection.
Wawer and colleagues followed a cohort of over 15,000 adults living in rural villages in Rakai, Uganda. From this population, they retrospectively identified 235 heterosexual couples in whom one partner was infected with HIV and the other partner was uninfected and monogamous. Study participants provided a blood sample and answered questions about their health and behavior, including questions on number of sexual partners and coital frequency, at 10-month intervals for up to 40 months.
Steve Baragona | EurekAlert!
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