OBJECTIVE: To demonstrate a causal relationship between herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2) and increased genital HIV-1-RNA shedding in women on HAART. DESIGN: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of herpes-suppressive therapy (valacyclovir 500 mg twice a day) in HIV-1/HSV-2-infected women taking HAART in Burkina Faso. METHODS: Participants were followed for a total of 12 biweekly visits before and after randomization. The presence and frequency of genital and plasma HIV-1 RNA, and of genital HSV-2 were assessed using summary measures, adjusting for baseline values. Random effect linear regression models were used to assess the impact of treatment on genital and plasma viral loads among visits with detectable virus. RESULTS: Sixty women were enrolled into the trial. Their median CD4 lymphocyte count was 228 cells/mul, and 83% had undetectable plasma HIV-1 RNA at baseline. Valacyclovir reduced the proportion of visits with detectable genital HSV-2 DNA [odds ratio (OR) 0.37, 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.13, 1.05], but had no significant impact on the frequency (OR 0.90, 95% CI 0.31, 2.62) or quantity (reduction of 0.33 log copies/ml, 95% CI -0.81, 0.16) of genital HIV-1 RNA. However, according to pre-defined secondary analyses restricted to women who shed HIV-1 at least once in the baseline phase, valacyclovir reduced both the proportion of visits with detectable HIV-1 shedding (OR 0.27, 95% CI 0.07, 0.99) and the quantity of genital HIV-1 RNA during these visits (-0.71 log10 copies/ml, 95% CI -1.27, -0.14). CONCLUSION: HSV-2 facilitates residual genital HIV-1 replication among dually infected women taking HAART despite HIV-1 suppression at the systemic level.
AIDS (2006) 20 (18) 2305-13.