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Preventing HIV transmission through antiretroviral treatment-mediated virologic suppression: aspects of an emerging scientific agenda

Dieffenbach, Carl W.

Current Opinion in HIV and AIDS: March 2012 - Volume 7 - Issue 2 - p 106–110
doi: 10.1097/COH.0b013e32834f3f13
TEST AND TREAT: Edited by Ann Duerr

Purpose of review This review describes important aspects of the research agenda that have emerged as a result of the recent findings of the HIV transmission study in sero-discordant couples conducted by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease (NIAID)-supported HIV Prevention Trials Network (HPTN) and referred to as HPTN 052.

Recent findings The HPTN 052 study provided strong evidence that antiretroviral treatment (ART), given to HIV-infected partners with the purpose of achieving and maintaining full virologic suppression, could prevent linked HIV transmission in sero-discordant couples. These findings have implications in all future combination prevention strategies.

Summary The HPTN 052 study demonstrated that sustained virus suppression, below detectable levels, can prevent HIV transmission in sero-discordant couples. As a result of this study, we have now identified ART as a key component for all combination prevention strategies. Additionally, this study demonstrates that HIV testing is the single door of entry for individualized HIV treatment and prevention. The challenge now is to create a robust, seamless linkage and retention system so that the vision of HIV treatment as prevention can be realized. Such a system will maximize both the treatment and the prevention benefits of ART. The research agenda outlined here describes the need to extend this finding to areas of implementation science, such as the development of simpler, easier to use point-of-care assays for virus load, and improved, better tolerated, more durable combinations and formulations of antiretroviral drugs.

Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Bethesda, Maryland, USA

Correspondence to Carl W. Dieffenbach, PhD, Division of AIDS, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, 6700B Rockledge Drive MSC 7620, Bethesda, MD 20892-7620, USA. Tel: +1 301 496 0545; e-mail:

© 2012 Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Inc.