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Scientific article
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How reliable is an undetectable viral load?

Published inHIV medicine, vol. 10, no. 8, p. 470-476
Publication date2009
Abstract

OBJECTIVES: An article by the Swiss AIDS Commission states that patients with stably suppressed viraemia [i.e. several successive HIV-1 RNA plasma concentrations (viral loads, VL) below the limits of detection during 6 months or more of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART)] are unlikely to be infectious. Questions then arise: how reliable is the undetectability of the VL, given the history of measures? What factors determine reliability? METHODS: We assessed the probability (henceforth termed reliability) that the n+1 VL would exceed 50 or 1000 HIV-1 RNA copies/mL when the nth one had been <50 copies/mL in 6168 patients of the Swiss HIV Cohort Study who were continuing to take HAART between 2003 and 2007. General estimating equations were used to analyse potential factors of reliability. RESULTS: With a cut-off at 50 copies/mL, reliability was 84.5% (n=1), increasing to 94.5% (n=5). Compliance, the current type of HAART and the first antiretroviral therapy (ART) received (HAART or not) were predictive factors of reliability. With a cut-off at 1000 copies/mL, reliability was 97.5% (n=1), increasing to 99.1% (n=4). Chart review revealed that patients had stopped their treatment, admitted to major problems with compliance or were taking non-HAART ART in 72.2% of these cases. Viral escape caused by resistance was found in 5.6%. No explanation was found in the charts of 22.2% of cases. CONCLUSIONS: After several successive VLs at <50 copies/mL, reliability reaches approximately 94% with a cut-off of 50 copies/mL and approximately 99% with a cut-off at 1000 copies/mL. Compliance is the most important factor predicting reliability.

Citation (ISO format)
COMBESCURE, Christophe et al. How reliable is an undetectable viral load? In: HIV medicine, 2009, vol. 10, n° 8, p. 470–476. doi: 10.1111/j.1464-2662.2009.00714.x
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