Background: The semen of HIV-1 infected men represents the main vector of HIV-1 spread following sexual transmission of cell-free or cell-associated virions.
Objective: The present study aimed to assess the impact of HAART on HIV-1 RNA/DNA and on inflammatory environment in the semen of long-term HAART-experienced men.
Methods: Forty-five paired samples of semen and blood were obtained from 37 consenting men, 10 untreated and 27 under HAART. Blood and seminal HIV RNA and DNA loads were quantified by the Abbott RealTime m2000rt assay and an inhouse real-time PCR protocol, respectively. Tat/rev/nef intra-cellular mRNA was tested by qualitative PCR. Interleukin (IL)- 1β, IL-2, IL-6, IL-7, IL-8, IL-10, GM-CSF and TNFα were quantified in 20 paired samples by Bio-plex® assay.
Results: No semen was found HIV RNA positive in men under HAART. Twenty-six percent of semen samples from HAART-experienced men remained positive for HIV DNA. Seminal HIV DNA was significantly associated with the duration of infection and the HIV DNA load in blood. No seminal mononuclear cells were found positive for intracellular HIV RNA in HAART experienced men. All the tested chemokines exhibited significantly higher concentration in semen than in blood in both treated and untreated men. No effect of HAART on cytokines/chimiokines loads was observed.
Conclusion: These results demonstrate the efficacy of HAART on the reduction of seminal RNA HIV-1 loads despite the persistence of local inflammation. Moreover, in our hands the seminal cell-associated virus reservoir was not reactivated in an inflammatory environment was not productive and its reactivation seems unlikely.