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Southern African Journal of HIV Medicine

On-line version ISSN 2078-6751
Print version ISSN 1608-9693


APALATA, T et al. Association between symptomatic vulvovaginal candidiasis and HIV RNA levels in plasma and genital secretions among women on HAART. South. Afr. j. HIV med. (Online) [online]. 2014, vol.15, n.2, pp.57-64. ISSN 2078-6751.

BACKGROUND: Genital tract (GT) inflammation plays a major role in HIV transmission. We aimed to determine the association between symptomatic vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC) and HIV RNA levels in plasma and GTs of HIV-infected women on highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). METHOD: Women with VVC on HAART were recruited from a primary healthcare clinic in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa, between June 2011 and December 2011. VVC was diagnosed clinically, supported by Gram staining and culture of genital secretions. HIV RNA load was determined by reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction. CD4+ counts were obtained from patients' medical records. RESULTS: Plasma HIV RNA was detected in 42 of 60 (70%) patients on HAART. The mean duration (± standard deviation) on HAART for these patients was 4.2 (±1.6) months v. 10.7 (±1.4) months for the remaining 18 patients (p<0.0001). Of the 42 women with detectable plasma HIV RNA, 12 (28.6%) had detectable genital HIV RNA. Plasma HIV RNA levels ranged from 2.5 (±0.8) to 4.1 (±0.8) log10 copies/ml. Genital HIV RNA levels ranged from 1.4 to 2.5 (±1.1) log10 copies/ml. The adjusted odds ratios of plasma HIV RNA levels increased for patients <35 years (p=0.039) and in those with VVC (p=0.008). Detectability of HIV in genital secretions was significantly increased in patients with a plasma HIV load >10 000 copies/ml (p=0.032) and genital absolute counts of neutrophils >10 cells/5 high microscopic fields (p=0.007). CONCLUSION: Given that the majority of women had recently initiated HAART (allowing a high rate of detectable plasma HIV RNA), there was insufficient evidence to conclude that VVC was predictive of high plasma HIV RNA levels. It is more likely that this cohort of immunosuppressed women were prone to develop VVC. Plasma HIV loads and local genital inflammation were predictors of genital HIV detectability.

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