Heterosexual risk of HIV transmission per sexual act under combined antiretroviral therapy: Systematic review and bayesian modeling


BACKGROUND: Although essential for patient counseling and quality of life of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected individuals, the risk of HIV transmission during 1 unprotected sex act with an HIV-infected person under combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) remains unknown. METHODS: We reviewed systematically the literature for studies on HIV transmission among heterosexual HIV-serodiscordant couples, where the infected partner was on cART, with regular virological monitoring, reporting on condom use and sexual activity. We used Bayesian statistics to combine data from selected studies, to investigate the per-act risk of HIV transmission through unprotected sex with an HIV-infected person on cART for >6 months. RESULTS: At most, 1 HIV transmission, over an estimated 113 480 sex acts, of which 17% were not condom protected, was reported within 1672 HIV-serodiscordant couples where the index partner had been treated for >6 months. Data were insufficient to determine whether the reported transmission occurred before or after 6 months of cART. We estimated the upper-bound per-act risk of HIV transmission at either 8.7 or 13:100 000, depending on whether the transmission occurred before or after 6 months of cART. These estimates applied whether or not index partners were virally suppressed. Estimating an upper-bound risk <1_100 000 would require observing no HIV transmission while collecting >12 times the available amount of data. CONCLUSIONS: Available data do not support zero risk of HIV transmission under cART. The per-act risk of HIV transmission through unprotected sex with HIV-infected individuals on cART in comprehensive care for >6 months (whether or not virally suppressed) is <13_100 000. Estimating a 10-fold lower upper-bound risk may be unfeasible due to high condom use among HIV-serodiscordant couples in most research studies.


Supervie V, Viard JP, Costagliola D, Breban R.




  • Population(s)
    • General HIV+ population
    • General HIV- population
  • Engagement and Care Cascade
    • Treatment


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