Background: The HIV RNA viral load (VL) in vaginal secretions and semen is an independent predictor of HIV transmission. Blood VL is associated with semen VL, and local mucosal factors, such as semen cytomegalovirus (CMV) reactivation, may play an important role.
Methods: Twenty-one HIV-CMV–coinfected, antiretroviral-naive men received 900 mg of oral valganciclovir once daily for 2 weeks in an open-label study. Blood and semen were collected at baseline, after 2 weeks of valganciclovir, and 2 months after therapy completion. The primary end point was change in semen HIV levels at 2 weeks, and the secondary end points were change in semen HIV VL at 2 months and change in semen CMV levels.
Results: The HIV VLs fell significantly at 2 weeks in semen (median 3.44−3.02 log10 copies/mL, P = 0.02) and blood (median 3.61−3.10 log10 copies/mL, P < 0.01) and returned to baseline after therapy completion (median 3.24 and 3.71 log10 copies/mL in semen and blood, respectively). Semen CMV levels also fell on treatment (median 2.13−1.62 log10 copies/mL, P < 0.01) and continued to fall after therapy completion (median 0.91 log10 copies/mL at week 8, P < 0.001 vs. baseline). The reduced semen CMV VL was associated with decreased semen T-cell activation and enhanced CMV-specific T-cell responses in blood; changes in the semen HIV VL were not associated with immune parameters.
Conclusions: Although valganciclovir therapy was associated with reduced HIV and semen CMV levels, these results suggest that the reduced HIV VL was a direct drug effect rather than a CMV antiviral effect or CMV-associated immune alterations.