In the HPTN 052 study, transmission between HIV-discordant couples was reduced by 96% when the HIV-infected partner received suppressive antiretroviral therapy (ART). We examined two transmission events where the newly infected partner was diagnosed after the HIV-infected partner (index) initiated therapy. We evaluated the sequence complexity of the viral populations and antibody reactivity in the newly infected partner to estimate the dates of transmission to the newly infected partners. In both cases, transmission most likely occurred significantly before HIV-1 diagnosis of the newly infected partner, and either just before the initiation of therapy or before viral replication was adequately suppressed by therapy of the index. This study further strengthens the conclusion about the efficacy of blocking transmission by treating the infected partner of discordant couples. However, this study does not rule out the potential for HIV-1 transmission to occur shortly after initiation of ART, and this should be recognized when antiretroviral therapy is used for HIV-1 prevention.
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