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The first aim of the study is to assess the distribution of HIV-1 RNA levels in subtype C infection. Among 4,348 drug-naı¨ve HIV-positive individuals participating in clinical studies in Botswana, the median baseline plasma HIV-1 RNA levels differed between the general population cohorts (4.1–4.2 log10) and cART-initiating cohorts (5.1–5.3 log10) by about one log10. The proportion of individuals with high ($50,000 (4.7 log10) copies/ml) HIV-1 RNA levels ranged from 24%–28% in the general HIV-positive population cohorts to 65%–83% in cART-initiating cohorts. The second aim is to estimate the proportion of individuals who maintain high HIV-1 RNA levels for an extended time and the duration of this period. For this analysis, we estimate the proportion of individuals who could be identified by repeated 6- vs. 12-month-interval HIV testing, as well as the potential reduction of HIV transmission time that can be achieved by testing and ARV treating. Longitudinal analysis of 42 seroconverters revealed that 33% (95% CI: 20%–50%) of individuals maintain high HIV-1 RNA levels for at least 180 days post seroconversion (p/s) and the median duration of high viral load period was 350 (269; 428) days p/s. We found that it would be possible to identify all HIV-infected individuals with viral load $50,000 (4.7 log10) copies/ml using repeated six-month-interval HIV testing. Assuming individuals with high viral load initiate cART after being identified, the period of high transmissibility due to high viral load can potentially be reduced by 77% (95% CI: 71%–82%). Therefore, if HIV-infected individuals maintaining high levels of plasma HIV-1 RNA for extended period of time contribute disproportionally to HIV transmission, a modified ‘‘test-and-treat’’ strategy targeting such individuals by repeated HIV testing (followed by initiation of cART) might be a useful public health strategy for mitigating the HIV epidemic in some communities.
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Novitsky V, Wang R, Bussmann H, Lockman S, Baum M, et al. (2010) HIV-1 Subtype C-Infected Individuals Maintaining High Viral Load as Potential Targets for the ‘‘Test-and-Treat’’ Approach to Reduce HIV Transmission. PLoS ONE 5(4): e10148. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0010148
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