Swiss HIV research condemned in Kenya

August 4, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, August 4 – The National AIDS Control Council (NACC) Monday opposed a report by Swiss researchers which suggested that discordant couples, where one partner is infected with HIV, could engage in unprotected sex.

NACC Head of Communications Peter Mutie told Capital News that discordant couples should always have protected sex by using a condom as a barrier method.

“We know treatment will suppress the virus, but how are we going to ensure that we keep people aware of the volume of the virus in their blood?” Mutie questioned. “It’s not possible.”

The researchers had explained to a global HIV/AIDS conference in Mexico that HIV- positive persons on Anti-Retroviral treatment do not transmit the virus during unprotected sex, provided the level of the germ in their blood was below detectable levels.

However, Mutie argued that it was difficult to maintain the low volumes of the virus as indicated.

“We even have problems with the CD4 count machines in this country. We don’t have enough of them to do the CD4 count as much as we would like to.”

He added that there was need to constantly monitor HIV volume levels if one was to go by the report.

“And suppose by chance the levels have gone up, maybe because of an infection? Your immunity is suppressed and the virus is then multiplied beyond the 40 per millilitre of blood as indicated in the research, you will obviously pass that virus,” the NACC official stated.

“And the fact that it is not even detectable doesn’t mean that it’s not in your system. It is there; only that it has not multiplied to levels where it can be captured,” Mutie informed.

In January, Switzerland’s Federal Commission for HIV/AIDS issued a report on discordant couples where they said that such couples need not use a condom, provided the infected partner regularly followed Anti-Retroviral therapy and had no genital infections.

In a debate just ahead of the 17th International AIDS Conference in Mexico City, panel member Pietro Vernazza said there was no documented case of an infection among discordant couples who fell in this category, and characterised the risk of transmission as “negligible.”


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