Author(s): Kravcik S, Victor G, Houston S, Sutherland D, Garber GE, , Kravcik S, Victor G, Houston S, Sutherland D, Garber GE,
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Abstract BACKGROUND: Dramatic reductions in plasma HIV RNA levels are possible with current antiretroviral regimens; the effect of potent therapies and "undetectable" viral load on the perceived risk of HIV transmission and need for safer practices remains unknown. METHODS: A questionnaire was developed to examine perceptions of HIV transmission risk and need for safer practices with unprotected anal, vaginal, and oral sex and intravenous drug use with needle sharing for HIV-discordant couples in which the HIV-infected partner was receiving no therapy, was receiving reverse transcriptase inhibitor therapy, and protease inhibitor (PI)-based therapy with viral load "undetectable". This was applied anonymously to 147 unselected HIV-infected individuals attending a university-based HIV clinic. RESULTS: Almost all respondents believed that all sexual activities except oral sex were "very risky" and that safer practices were "extremely important" for those not receiving antiretroviral agents. Significantly fewer considered that anal or vaginal sex was "very risky" for those receiving PI therapy (90.9\% and 86.0\%, respectively), and fewer thought that safer practices for anal or vaginal sex were "very important" for those receiving PI therapy (93.0\% and 91.6\%, respectively). In total, 20.4\% thought the risk of HIV transmission for at least one activity was reduced for those receiving PI therapy, and 19.0\% believed that the need for safer practices was reduced by PI therapy. CONCLUSION: A small but significant proportion of HIV-infected people perceive the need for safer practices to be reduced during antiretroviral therapy, particularly those containing PIs. Even if the risk is truly reduced, the importance of safer practices should be conveyed consistently and terms such as "undetectable" to describe HIV RNA responses should be avoided.
This article was published in J Acquir Immune Defic Syndr Hum Retrovirol
and referenced in Journal of AIDS & Clinical Research