Pos-neg couples wanted for world-first HIV study
Researchers involved with the world’s first study exploring whether HIV treatment can reduce transmission specifically in gay male serodiscordant relationships have called for more couples to take part in the important research project.
The Opposites Attract study is being coordinated by the Kirby Institute at the University of New South Wales, and will be conducted through 15 sexual health, HIV and GP clinics in Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Adelaide. It is expected that further sites may also open in Cairns and Canberra.
A multinational study of heterosexual couples completed in 2011 found that people living with HIV/AIDS could reduce the risk of transmission to others by 96 per cent through the immediate use of oral antiretroviral therapy (ART). The study, known as HPTN 052, commenced in April 2005, and involved 1,763 serodiscordant couples at 13 locations across Asia, Africa and the Americas.
Professor Andrew Grulich from the Kirby Institute, the principal investigator of the Opposites Attract study, said currently there was no data anywhere in the world as it related to gay serodiscordant couples, where one partner is HIV-positive and the other is not.
“Using HIV treatment as a way to prevent HIV transmission could potentially have a large impact on the epidemic. Along with other forms of HIV prevention – both new and traditional – we may be able to dramatically reduce the rate of new HIV transmissions.”
“Research findings in heterosexuals have shown that when the HIV-positive partner is on treatments, the risk of HIV transmission to their HIV-negative partner is reduced by 96% – effectively eliminating transmission,” Grulich said.
“However, it is imperative that we find out whether such an approach is equally effective for gay men.”
The study aims to provide important information on how much HIV treatments and viral load affects the possibility of HIV transmission between serodiscordant gay male partners.
Participants in the study will be followed two to four times per year for blood testing, STI testing, and to complete short questionnaires. HIV-positive men in Sydney will also have the opportunity to participate in a sub-study looking at HIV viral load in semen. The only condition for interested participants is that they expect to be in a sexual relationship for at least the next three months with the same partner.
“We hope that gay men in serodiscordant relationships all around Australia will volunteer to participate in this important new study,” Grulich said.
For more information, visit www.oppositesattract.net.au