Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Sex and the Course of HIV Infection in the Pre- and Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy Eras

Medscape reprints an article by Maria Prins, Laurence Meyer, and Nancy A. Hessol, which was first published in the March 4 issue of AIDS. Here's the abstract:

We reviewed the available literature on the potential effects of sex on the course of HIV infection and found that there is little evidence for sex differences in the rate of disease progression in the pre-highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and HAART era. Compared to men, women appeared to have lower HIV RNA levels and higher CD4 cell counts shortly after infection with HIV, but studies were inconclusive regarding whether these differences diminish over time. Differences in viral load or CD4+ cell count might cause women to delay initiation of HAART. Nonetheless, we found no substantial sex difference in the benefit of antiretroviral therapy. The studies we reviewed failed to find any harmful effect of pregnancy on HIV disease progression. With the availability of effective antiretroviral agents, HIV-infected women have increasingly decided to have children. Conflicting results exist on the effect of HAART on regression of cervical intra-epithelial neoplasia (CIN). Unlike CIN, invasive cervical cancer has not been found to be much higher in HIV-infected women than in HIV-uninfected women. Although publication bias cannot be ruled out, published studies suggest higher rates of adverse events among HIV-infected women on therapy as compared to men. As more pharmacological agents are developed, it is especially important that potential sex differences in pharmacodynamics are assessed. The relationship between metabolic abnormalities, changes in body habitus, and endocrine perturbations has not been extensively studied. Whether sex differences are due to unalterable genetic factors or social and environmental conditions, it is imperative that all HIV-infected individuals have equal access to interventions that can slow disease progression.

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