Summary: To assess antiretroviral therapy, all compartments, including the genital tract, need to be evaluated. HIV-1 RNA was quantified in whole cervicovaginal lavage fluid (CVL) and plasma of 56 women and in the cellular and supernatant fractions of 27 of these women. Overall, we detected HIV-1 RNA in 59% of whole CVL samples and in 61% and 44% of cellular and supernatant fractions of the subset of women, respectively. Detectability of HIV-1 RNA in CVL increased with increasing level of plasma RNA in both unfractionated and cell-associated CVL components (p = .0004 and .002, respectively), but not in the cell-free fraction (p = .29). Mean HIV-1 RNA levels in CVL increased with decreasing CD4 counts (p = .002,) and with increasing plasma HIV-1 RNA (p < .001). Adjusted odds ratios (OR) for detectable CVL RNA were highest for women with CD4 counts <200 cells/mm3 (OR, 10.1; 95% confidence interval [CI]: 1.6-82.7; p = .02) and >50,000 copies/ml of plasma RNA (OR, 25.2; 95% CI, 3.2-554; p = .01). Treatment did not seem to affect RNA detection in CVL after adjusting for plasma RNA and CD4. In conclusion, we found that detectability and level of CVL RNA were closely associated with the cellular fraction of genital secretions in women and strongly correlated with the level of plasma RNA and CD4. Genital tract secretions may need to be tested in the assessment of treatment efficacy and this can easily be accomplished with this rapid and easy procedure using whole CVL.
(C) 1999 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.