Prevalence, Magnitude, and Correlates of HIV-1 Genital Shedding in Women on Antiretroviral Therapy

J Infect Dis. 2017 Dec 19;216(12):1534-1540. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jix550.


Background: Genital human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) RNA shedding can continue despite HIV being undetectable in blood, and can be associated with transmission.

Methods: We included African women on antiretroviral therapy (ART). Linear and generalized linear mixed models were used to compare the magnitude and prevalence of genital shedding, respectively, by time since ART initiation. Multivariable logistic regression with generalized estimating equations was used to assess predictors of genital shedding among women with undetectable plasma viral load (VL).

Results: Among 1114 women, 5.8% of visits with undetectable plasma VL and 23.6% of visits with detectable VL had genital shedding. The proportion of visits with genital shedding decreased with time since ART initiation but the magnitude of shedding remained unchanged when plasma VL was undetectable (P = .032). Prevalence of shedding did not vary by time since ART initiation when plasma VL was detectable (P = .195), though the magnitude of shedding significantly increased (P = .04). Predictors of genital shedding were HIV disease stage, antiretroviral regimen, and genital ulcers or cervical tenderness.

Discussion: In addition to ART, reducing immune activation through prevention and treatment of HIV-related conditions and genital tract infections may decrease the risk of HIV-1 shedding and potential transmission.

Keywords: HIV; antiretroviral; genital shedding; viral load.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Africa / epidemiology
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Blood / virology
  • Female
  • Genitalia, Female / virology*
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy*
  • HIV Infections / virology*
  • HIV-1 / isolation & purification*
  • Humans
  • Prevalence
  • Prospective Studies
  • Viral Load
  • Virus Shedding*


  • Anti-Retroviral Agents