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To better target HIV prevention, identify people whose social contacts have high viral loads
Roger Pebody, 2017-11-23 07:20:00

Rather than relying on assessment of an individual’s sexual behaviour or of ‘community viral load’, targeting of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and other prevention interventions could in part be based on the proportion of a person’s social contacts who have unsuppressed HIV. There is a correlation between young gay men having HIV and their ‘network viral load’, according to a study published online ahead of print in the Journal of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes.

Britt Skaathun and colleagues at the University of Chicago believe that the concept could eventually be used by public health departments in the US, by combining data from partner services (contact tracing) with viral load data from individuals in care. “NVL [network viral load] could have substantial public health implications for persons most at risk for HIV infection given that this novel metric avoids overreliance on individual level behavior or broad community indices,” they write.

Nonetheless the current study only provides proof of principle and the authors acknowledge that their data would need to be replicated in larger, longitudinal studies.