Human Immunodeficiency Virus Disease: AIDS and Related Disorders

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Retroviral genomes include both coding and noncoding sequences (Fig. 225e-2). In general, noncoding sequences are important recognition signals for DNA or RNA synthesis or processing events and are located in the 5′ and 3′ terminal regions of the genome. All retroviral genomes are terminally redundant, containing identical sequences called long terminal repeats (LTRs). The ends of the retroviral RNA genome differ slightly in sequence from the integrated retroviral DNA. In the latter, the LTR sequences are repeated in both the 5′ and the 3′ terminus of the virus. The LTRs contain sequences involved in initiating the expression of the viral proteins, the integration of the provirus, and the polyadenylation of viral RNAs. The primer binding site, which is critical for the initiation of reverse transcription, and the viral packaging sequences are located outside the LTR sequences. The coding regions include the gag (group-specific antigen, core protein), pol (RNA-dependent DNA polymerase), and env (envelope) genes. The gag gene encodes a precursor polyprotein that is cleaved to form three to five capsid proteins; a fraction of the Gag precursor proteins also contain a protease responsible for cleaving the Gag and Pol polyproteins. A Gag-Pol polyprotein gives rise to the protease that is responsible for cleaving the Gag-Pol polyprotein. The pol gene encodes three proteins: the reverse transcriptase, the integrase, and the protease. The reverse transcriptase copies the viral RNA into the double-strand DNA provirus, which inserts itself into the host cell DNA via the action of integrase. The protease cleaves the Gag-Pol polyprotein into smaller protein products. The env gene encodes the envelope glycoproteins: one protein that binds to specific surface receptors and determines what cell types can be infected and a smaller transmembrane protein that anchors the complex to the envelope. Fig. 225e-3 shows how the retroviral gene products make up the virus structure.


FIGURE 225e-2   Genomic structure of retroviruses. The murine leukemia virus MuLV has the typical three structural genes: gag, pol, and env. The gag region gives rise to three proteins: matrix (MA), capsid (CA), and nucleic acid–binding (NC) proteins. The pol region encodes both a protease (PR) responsible for cleaving the viral polyproteins and a reverse transcriptase (RT). In addition, HIV pol encodes an integrase (IN). The env region encodes a surface protein (SU) and a small transmembrane protein (TM). The human retroviruses have additional gene products translated in each of the three possible reading frames. HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 have tax and rex genes with exons on either side of the env gene. HIV-1 and HIV-2 have six accessory gene products: tat, rev, vif, nef, vpr, and either vpu (in HIV-1) or vpx (in HIV-2). The genes for these proteins are located mainly between the pol and env genes. GP, glycoprotein; HBZ, HTLV-1 basic leucine zipper domain–containing protein; LTR, long terminal repeat.


FIGURE 225e-3   Schematic structure of human retroviruses. The surface glycoprotein (SU) is responsible for binding to receptors of host cells. The transmembrane protein (TM) anchors SU to the virus. NC is a nucleic acid–binding protein found in association with the viral RNA. A protease (PR) cleaves the polyproteins encoded by the gag, pol, and env genes into their functional components. RT is reverse transcriptase, and IN is an integrase present in some retroviruses (e.g., HIV-1) that facilitates insertion of the provirus into the host genome. The matrix protein (MA) is a Gag protein closely associated with the lipid of the envelope. The capsid protein (CA) forms the major internal structure of the virus, the core shell.

HTLVs have a region between env and the 3′ LTR that encodes several proteins and transcripts in overlapping reading frames (Fig. 225e-2). Tax is a 40-kDa protein that does not bind to DNA but induces the expression of host cell transcription factors that alter host cell gene expression and is capable of inducing cell transformation under certain circumstances. Rex is a 27-kDa protein that regulates the expression of viral mRNAs. Other transcripts from this region (p12, p13, p30) tend to restrict expression of viral genes and diminish the immunogenicity of infected cells. The protein of HBZ, a product of the complementary proviral DNA strand, interacts with many cellular transcription factors and signaling proteins. It stimulates proliferation of infected cells and is the only viral product universally expressed in HTLV-1-infected tumor cells. These proteins are produced from messages that are similar but that are spliced differently from overlapping but distinct exons.

The lentiviruses in general, and HIV-1 and -2 in particular, contain a larger genome than other pathogenic retroviruses. They contain an untranslated region between pol and env that encodes portions of several proteins, varying with the reading frame into which the mRNA is spliced. Tat is a 14-kDa protein that augments the expression of virus from the LTR. The Rev protein of HIV-1, similar to the Rex protein of HTLV, regulates RNA splicing and/or RNA transport. The Nef protein downregulates CD4, the cellular receptor for HIV; alters host T cell–activation pathways; and enhances viral infectivity. The Vif protein is necessary for the proper assembly of the HIV nucleoprotein core in many types of cells; without Vif, proviral DNA is not efficiently produced in these infected cells. In addition, the Vif protein targets APOBEC (apolipoprotein B mRNA-editing enzyme catalytic polypeptide, a cytidine deaminase that mutates the viral sequence) for proteasomal degradation, thus blocking its virus-suppressing effect. Vpr, Vpu (HIV-1 only), and Vpx (HIV-2 only) are viral proteins encoded by translation of the same message in different reading frames. As noted above, oncogenic retroviruses depend on cell proliferation for their replication; lentiviruses can infect nondividing cells, largely through effects mediated by Vpr. Vpr facilitates transport of the provirus into the nucleus and can induce other cellular changes, such as G2 growth arrest and differentiation of some target cells. Vpx is structurally related to Vpr, but its functions are not fully defined. Vpu promotes the degradation of CD4 in the endoplasmic reticulum and stimulates the release of virions from infected cells.

Retroviruses can be either exogenously acquired (by infection with an infected cell or a free virion capable of replication) or transmitted in the germline as endogenous virus. Endogenous retroviruses are often replication defective. The human genome contains endogenous retroviral sequences, but there are no known replication-competent endogenous retroviruses in humans.

In general, viruses that contain only the gag, pol, and env genes either are not pathogenic or take a long time to induce disease; these observations indicate the importance of the other regulatory genes in viral disease pathogenesis. The pathogenesis of neoplastic transformation by retroviruses relies on the chance integration of the provirus at a spot in the genome resulting in the expression of a cellular gene (protooncogene) that becomes transforming by virtue of its unregulated expression. For example, avian leukosis virus causes B cell leukemia by inducing the expression of myc. Some retroviruses possess captured and altered cellular genes near their integration site, and these viral oncogenes can transform the infected host cell. Viruses that have oncogenes often have lost a portion of their genome that is required for replication. Such viruses need helper viruses to reproduce, a feature that may explain why these acute transforming retroviruses are rare in nature. All human retroviruses identified to date are exogenous and are not acutely transforming (i.e., they lack a transforming oncogene).

These remarkable properties of retroviruses have led to experimental efforts to use them as vectors to insert specific genes into particular cell types, a process known as gene therapy or gene transfer. The process could be used to repair a genetic defect or to introduce a new property that could be used therapeutically; for example, a gene (e.g., thymidine kinase) that would make a tumor cell susceptible to killing by a drug (e.g., ganciclovir) could be inserted. One source of concern about the use of retroviral vectors in humans is that replication-competent viruses might rescue endogenous retroviral replication, with unpredictable results. This concern is not merely hypothetical: the detection of proteins encoded by endogenous retroviral sequences on the surface of cancer cells implies that the genetic events leading to the cancer were able to activate the synthesis of these usually silent genes.


HTLV-1 was isolated in 1980 from a T cell lymphoma cell line from a patient originally thought to have cutaneous T cell lymphoma. Later it became clear that the patient had a distinct form of lymphoma (originally reported in Japan) called adult T cell leukemia/lymphoma (ATL). Serologic data have determined that HTLV-1 is the cause of at least two important diseases: ATL and tropical spastic paraparesis, also called HTLV-1-associated myelopathy (HAM). HTLV-1 may also play a role in infective dermatitis, arthritis, uveitis, and Sjögren’s syndrome.

Two years after the isolation of HTLV-1, HTLV-2 was isolated from a patient with an unusual form of hairy cell leukemia that affected T cells. Epidemiologic studies of HTLV-2 failed to reveal a consistent disease association. Similarly, HTLV-3 and HTLV-4 have been identified but have no known disease association.


Because the biology of HTLV-1 and that of HTLV-2 are similar, the following discussion will focus on HTLV-1.

Human glucose transporter protein 1 (GLUT-1) functions as a receptor for HTLV-1, probably acting together with neuropilin-1 (NRP1) and heparan sulfate proteoglycans. Generally, only T cells are productively infected, but infection of B cells and other cell types is occasionally detected. The most common outcome of HTLV-1 infection is latent carriage of randomly integrated provirus in CD4+ T cells. HTLV-1 does not contain an oncogene and does not insert into a unique site in the genome. Indeed, most infected cells express no viral gene products. The only viral gene product that is routinely expressed in tumor cells transformed by HTLV-1 in vivo is hbz. The tax gene is thought to be critical to the transformation process but is not expressed in the tumor cells of many ATL patients, possibly because of the immunogenicity of tax-expressing cells. Cells transformed in vitro, by contrast, actively transcribe HTLV-1 RNA and produce infectious virions. Most HTLV-1-transformed cell lines are the result of the infection of a normal host T cell in vitro. It is difficult to establish cell lines derived from authentic ATL cells.

Although tax does not itself bind to DNA, it does induce the expression of a wide range of host cell gene products, including transcription factors (especially c-rel/NF-κB, ets-1 and -2, and members of the fos/jun family), cytokines (e.g., interleukin [IL] 2, granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor, and tumor necrosis factor), membrane proteins and receptors (major histocompatibility [MHC] molecules and IL-2 receptor α), and chromatin remodeling complexes. The genes activated by tax are generally controlled by transcription factors of the c-rel/NF-κB and cyclic AMP response element binding (CREB) protein families. It is unclear how this induction of host gene expression leads to neoplastic transformation; tax can interfere with G1 and mitotic cell-cycle checkpoints, block apoptosis, inhibit DNA repair, and promote antigen-independent T cell proliferation. Induction of a cytokine–autocrine loop has been proposed; however, IL-2 is not the crucial cytokine. The involvement of IL-4, IL-7, and IL-15 has been proposed.

In light of the irregular expression of tax in ATL cells, it has been suggested that tax is important in the early phases of transformation but is not essential for the maintenance of the transformed state. The maintenance role is thought to be due to hbz expression. As is clear from the epidemiology of HTLV-1 infection, transformation of an infected cell is a rare event and may depend on heterogeneous second, third, or fourth genetic hits. No consistent chromosomal abnormalities have been described in ATL; however, aneuploidy is common and individual cases with p53 mutations and translocations involving the T cell receptor genes on chromosome 14 have been reported. Tax may repress certain DNA repair enzymes, permitting the accumulation of genetic damage that would normally be repaired. However, the molecular pathogenesis of HTLV-1-induced neoplasia is not fully understood.


Epidemiology   HTLV-1 infection is transmitted in at least three ways: from mother to child, especially via breast milk; through sexual activity, more commonly from men to women; and through the blood—via contaminated transfusions or contaminated needles. The virus is most commonly transmitted perinatally. Compared with HIV, which can be transmitted in cell-free form, HTLV-1 is less infectious, and its transmission usually requires cell-to-cell contact.

image HTLV-1 is endemic in southwestern Japan and Okinawa, where >1 million persons are infected. Antibodies to HTLV-1 are present in the serum of up to 35% of Okinawans, 10% of residents of the Japanese island of Kyushu, and <1% of persons in nonendemic regions of Japan. Despite this high prevalence of infection, only ~500 cases of ATL are diagnosed in this area each year. Clusters of infection have been noted in other areas of the Orient, such as Taiwan; in the Caribbean basin, including northeastern South America; in northwestern South America; in central and southern Africa; in Italy, Israel, Iran, and Papua New Guinea; in the Arctic; and in the southeastern part of the United States (Fig. 225e-4). An estimated 5–10 million persons have HTLV-1 infection worldwide.


FIGURE 225e-4   Global distribution of HTLV-1 infection. Countries with a prevalence of HTLV-1 infection of 1–5% are shaded darkly. Note that the distribution of infected patients is not uniform in endemic countries. For example, the people of southwestern Japan and northeastern Brazil are more commonly affected than those in other regions of those countries.

Progressive spastic or ataxic myelopathy developing in an individual who is HTLV-1 positive (i.e., who has serum antibodies to HTLV-1) may be due to direct infection of the nervous system with the virus, but destruction of the pyramidal tracts appears to involve HTLV-1-infected CD4+ T cells; a similar disorder may result from infection with HIV or HTLV-2. In rare instances, patients with HAM are seronegative but have detectable antibody to HTLV-1 in cerebrospinal fluid (CSF).

The cumulative lifetime risk of developing ATL is 3% among HTLV-1-infected patients, with a threefold greater risk among men than among women; a similar cumulative risk is projected for HAM (4%), but with women more commonly affected than men. The distribution of these two diseases overlaps the distribution of HTLV-1, with >95% of affected patients showing serologic evidence of HTLV-1 infection. The latency period between infection and the emergence of disease is 20–30 years for ATL. For HAM, the median latency period is ~3.3 years (range, 4 months to 30 years). The development of ATL is rare among persons infected by blood products; however, ~20% of patients with HAM acquire HTLV-1 from contaminated blood. ATL is more common among perinatally infected individuals, whereas HAM is more common among persons infected via sexual transmission.

Associated DiseasesATL   Four clinical types of HTLV-1-induced neoplasia have been described: acute, lymphomatous, chronic, and smoldering. All of these tumors are monoclonal proliferations of CD4+ postthymic T cells with clonal proviral integrations and clonal T cell receptor gene rearrangements.

ACUTE ATL   About 60% of patients who develop malignancy have classic acute ATL, which is characterized by a short clinical prodrome (~2 weeks between the first symptoms and the diagnosis) and an aggressive natural history (median survival period, 6 months). The clinical picture is dominated by rapidly progressive skin lesions, pulmonary involvement, hypercalcemia, and lymphocytosis with cells containing lobulated or “flower-shaped” nuclei (see Fig. 134-10). The malignant cells have monoclonal proviral integrations and express CD4, CD3, and CD25 (low-affinity IL-2 receptors) on their surface. Serum levels of CD25 can be used as a tumor marker. Anemia and thrombocytopenia are rare. The skin lesions may be difficult to distinguish from those in mycosis fungoides. Lytic bone lesions, which are common, do not contain tumor cells but rather are composed of osteolytic cells, usually without osteoblastic activity. Despite the leukemic picture, bone marrow involvement is patchy in most cases.

The hypercalcemia of ATL is multifactorial; the tumor cells produce osteoclast-activating factors (tumor necrosis factor α, IL-1, lymphotoxin) and can also produce a parathyroid hormone–like molecule. Affected patients have an underlying immunodeficiency that makes them susceptible to opportunistic infections similar to those seen in patients with AIDS (Chap. 226). The pathogenesis of the immunodeficiency is unclear. Pulmonary infiltrates in ATL patients reflect leukemic infiltration half the time and opportunistic infections with organisms such as Pneumocystis and other fungi the other half. Gastrointestinal symptoms are nearly always related to opportunistic infection. Strongyloides stercoralis is a gastrointestinal parasite that has a pattern of endemic distribution similar to that of HTLV-1. HTLV-1-infected persons also infected with this parasite may develop ATL more often or more rapidly than those without Strongyloides infections. Serum concentrations of lactate dehydrogenase and alkaline phosphatase are often elevated in ATL. About 10% of patients have leptomeningeal involvement leading to weakness, altered mental status, paresthesia, and/or headache. Unlike other forms of central nervous system (CNS) lymphoma, ATL may be accompanied by normal CSF protein levels. The diagnosis depends on finding ATL cells in the CSF (Chap. 134).

LYMPHOMATOUS ATL   The lymphomatous type of ATL occurs in ~20% of patients and is similar to the acute form in its natural history and clinical course, except that circulating abnormal cells are rare and lymphadenopathy is evident. The histology of the lymphoma is variable but does not influence the natural history. In general, the diagnosis is suspected on the basis of the patient’s birthplace (see “Epidemiology,” above) and the presence of skin lesions and hypercalcemia. The diagnosis is confirmed by the detection of antibodies to HTLV-1 in serum.

CHRONIC ATL   Patients with the chronic form of ATL generally have normal serum levels of calcium and lactate dehydrogenase and no involvement of the CNS, bone, or gastrointestinal tract. The median duration of survival for these patients is 2 years. In some cases, chronic ATL progresses to the acute form of the disease.

SMOLDERING ATL   Fewer than 5% of patients have the smoldering form of ATL. In this form, the malignant cells have monoclonal proviral integration; <5% of peripheral blood cells exhibit typical morphologic abnormalities; hypercalcemia, adenopathy, and hepatosplenomegaly do not develop; the CNS, the bones, and the gastrointestinal tract are not involved; and skin lesions and pulmonary lesions may be present. The median survival period for this small subset of patients appears to be ≥5 years.

HAM (TROPICAL SPASTIC PARAPARESIS)   In contrast to ATL, in which there is a slight predominance of male patients, HAM affects female patients disproportionately. HAM resembles multiple sclerosis in certain ways (Chap. 458). The onset is insidious. Symptoms include weakness or stiffness in one or both legs, back pain, and urinary incontinence. Sensory changes are usually mild, but peripheral neuropathy may develop. The disease generally takes the form of slowly progressive and unremitting thoracic myelopathy; one-third of patients are bedridden within 10 years of diagnosis, and one-half are unable to walk unassisted by this point. Patients display spastic paraparesis or paraplegia with hyperreflexia, ankle clonus, and extensor plantar responses. Cognitive function is usually spared; cranial nerve abnormalities are unusual.

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) reveals lesions in both the white matter and the paraventricular regions of the brain as well as in the spinal cord. Pathologic examination of the spinal cord shows symmetric degeneration of the lateral columns, including the corticospinal tracts; some cases involve the posterior columns as well. The spinal meninges and cord parenchyma contain an inflammatory infiltrate with myelin destruction.

HTLV-1 is not usually found in cells of the CNS but may be detected in a small population of lymphocytes present in the CSF. In general, HTLV-1 replication is greater in HAM than in ATL, and patients with HAM have a stronger immune response to the virus. Antibodies to HTLV-1 are present in the serum and appear to be produced in the CSF of HAM patients, where titers are often higher than in the serum. The pathophysiology of HAM may involve the induction of autoimmune destruction of neural cells by T cells with specificity for viral components such as Tax or Env proteins. One theory is that susceptibility to HAM may be related to the presence of human leukocyte antigen (HLA) alleles capable of presenting viral antigens in a fashion that leads to autoimmunity. Insufficient data are available to confirm an HLA association. However, antibodies in the sera of HAM patients have been shown to bind a neuron-specific antigen (heteronuclear ribonuclear protein A1 [hnRNP A1]) and to interfere with neurotransmission in vitro.

It is unclear what factors influence whether HTLV-1 infection will cause disease and, if it does, whether it will induce a neoplasm (ATL) or an autoimmune disorder (HAM). Differences in viral strains, the susceptibility of particular MHC haplotypes, the route of HTLV-1 infection, the viral load, and the nature of the HTLV-1-related immune response are putative factors, but few definitive data are available.

OTHER PUTATIVE HTLV-1-RELATED DISEASES   Even in the absence of the full clinical picture of HAM, bladder dysfunction is common in HTLV-1-infected women. In areas where HTLV-1 is endemic, diverse inflammatory and autoimmune diseases have been attributed to the virus, including uveitis, dermatitis, pneumonitis, rheumatoid arthritis, and polymyositis. However, a causal relationship between HTLV-1 and these illnesses has not been established.

Prevention   Women in endemic areas should not breast-feed their children, and blood donors should be screened for serum antibodies to HTLV-1. As in the prevention of HIV infection, the practice of safe sex and the avoidance of needle sharing are important.


image Epidemiology   HTLV-2 is endemic in certain Native American tribes and in Africa. It is generally considered to be a New World virus that was brought from Asia to the Americas 10,000–40,000 years ago during the migration of infected populations across the Bering land bridge. The mode of transmission of HTLV-2 is probably the same as that of HTLV-1 (see above). HTLV-2 may be less readily transmitted sexually than HTLV-1.

Studies of large cohorts of injection drug users with serologic assays that reliably distinguish HTLV-1 from HTLV-2 indicated that the vast majority of HTLV-positive cohort members were infected with HTLV-2. The seroprevalence of HTLV in a cohort of 7841 injection drug users from drug treatment centers in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles, New Jersey (Asbury Park and Trenton), New York City (Brooklyn and Harlem), Philadelphia, and San Antonio was 20.9%, with >97% of cases due to HTLV-2. The seroprevalence of HTLV-2 was higher in the Southwest and the Midwest than in the Northeast. In contrast, the seroprevalence of HIV-1 was higher in the Northeast than in the Southwest or the Midwest. Approximately 3% of the cohort members were infected with both HTLV-2 and HIV-1. The seroprevalence of HTLV-2 increased linearly with age. Women were significantly more likely to be infected with HTLV-2 than were men; the virus is thought to be more efficiently transmitted from male to female than from female to male.

Associated Diseases   Although HTLV-2 was isolated from a patient with a T cell variant of hairy cell leukemia, this virus has not been consistently associated with a particular disease and in fact has been thought of as “a virus searching for a disease.” However, evidence is accumulating that HTLV-2 may play a role in certain neurologic, hematologic, and dermatologic diseases. These data require confirmation, particularly in light of the previous confusion regarding the relative prevalences of HTLV-1 and HTLV-2 among injection drug users.

Prevention   Avoidance of needle sharing, adherence to safe-sex practices, screening of blood (by assays for HTLV-1, which also detect HTLV-2), and avoidance of breast-feeding by infected women are important principles in the prevention of spread of HTLV-2.


HIV-1 and HIV-2 are members of the lentivirus subfamily of Retroviridae and are the only lentiviruses known to infect humans. The lentiviruses are slow-acting by comparison with viruses that cause acute infection (e.g., influenza virus) but not by comparison with other retroviruses. The features of acute primary infection with HIV resemble those of more classic acute infections. The characteristic chronicity of HIV disease is consistent with the designation lentivirus. For a detailed discussion of HIV, see Chap. 226.


Human Immunodeficiency Virus Disease: AIDS and Related Disorders

Anthony S. Fauci, H. Clifford Lane

AIDS was first recognized in the United States in the summer of 1981, when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported the unexplained occurrence of Pneumocystis jiroveci (formerly P. carinii) pneumonia in five previously healthy homosexual men in Los Angeles and of Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) with or without P. jiroveci pneumonia and other opportunistic infections in 26 previously healthy homosexual men in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. The disease was soon recognized in male and female injection drug users; in hemophiliacs and blood transfusion recipients; among female sexual partners of men with AIDS; and among infants born to mothers with AIDS. In 1983, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was isolated from a patient with lymphadenopathy, and by 1984 it was demonstrated clearly to be the causative agent of AIDS. In 1985, a sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) was developed; this led to an appreciation of the scope and evolution of the HIV epidemic at first in the United States and other developed nations and ultimately among developing nations throughout the world (see “HIV Infection and AIDS Worldwide,” below). The staggering worldwide evolution of the HIV pandemic has been matched by an explosion of information in the areas of HIV virology, pathogenesis (both immunologic and virologic), treatment of HIV disease, treatment and prophylaxis of the opportunistic diseases associated with HIV infection, and prevention of HIV infection. The information flow related to HIV disease is enormous and continues to expand, and it has become almost impossible for the health care generalist to stay abreast of the literature. The purpose of this chapter is to present the most current information available on the scope of the epidemic; on its pathogenesis, treatment, and prevention; and on prospects for vaccine development. Above all, the aim is to provide a solid scientific basis and practical clinical guidelines for a state-of-the-art approach to the HIV-infected patient.


The current U.S. CDC classification system for HIV infection and AIDS categorizes people on the basis of clinical conditions associated with HIV infection and CD4+ T lymphocyte measurement. A confirmed HIV case can be classified in one of five HIV infection stages (0, 1, 2, 3, or unknown). If there was a negative HIV test within 6 months of the first HIV infection diagnosis, the stage is 0, and remains 0 until 6 months after diagnosis. Advanced HIV disease (AIDS) is classified as stage 3 if one or more specific opportunistic illness has been diagnosed (Table 226-1). Otherwise, the stage is determined by CD4 test results and immunologic criteria (Table 226-2). If none of these criteria apply (e.g., because of missing information on CD4 test results), the stage is U (unknown).

TABLE 226-1


Bacterial infections, multiple or recurrenta

Candidiasis of bronchi, trachea, or lungs

Candidiasis of esophagus

Cervical cancer, invasiveb

Coccidioidomycosis, disseminated or extrapulmonary

Cryptococcosis, extrapulmonary

Cryptosporidiosis, chronic intestinal (>1 month’s duration)

Cytomegalovirus disease (other than liver, spleen, or nodes), onset at age >1 month

Cytomegalovirus retinitis (with loss of vision)

Encephalopathy attributed to HIV

Herpes simplex: chronic ulcers (>1 month’s duration) or bronchitis, pneumonitis, or esophagitis (onset at age >1 month)

Histoplasmosis, disseminated or extrapulmonary

Isosporiasis, chronic intestinal (>1 month’s duration)

Kaposi’s sarcoma

Lymphoma, Burkitt’s (or equivalent term)

Lymphoma, immunoblastic (or equivalent term)

Lymphoma, primary, of brain

Mycobacterium avium complex or Mycobacterium kansasii, disseminated or extrapulmonary

Mycobacterium tuberculosis of any site, pulmonary,b disseminated, or extrapulmonary

Mycobacterium, other species or unidentified species, disseminated or extrapulmonary

Pneumocystis jirovecii (previously known as Pneumocystis carinii) pneumonia

Pneumonia, recurrentb

Progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy

Salmonella septicemia, recurrent

Toxoplasmosis of brain, onset at age >1 month

Wasting syndrome attributed to HIV

aOnly among children age <6 years.b Only among adults, adolescents, and children age ≥6 years.

Source: MMWR 63(No. RR-03), April 11, 2014.

TABLE 226-2



The definition and staging criteria of AIDS are complex and comprehensive and were established for surveillance purposes rather than for the practical care of patients. Thus, the clinician should not focus on whether the patient fulfills the strict definition of AIDS, but should view HIV disease as a spectrum ranging from primary infection, with or without the acute syndrome, to the asymptomatic stage, to advanced stages associated with opportunistic diseases (see “Pathophysiology and Pathogenesis,” below).


HIV is the etiologic agent of AIDS; it belongs to the family of human retroviruses (Retroviridae) and the subfamily of lentiviruses (Chap. 225e). Nononcogenic lentiviruses cause disease in other animal species, including sheep, horses, goats, cattle, cats, and monkeys. The four retroviruses known to cause human disease belong to two distinct groups: the human T lymphotropic viruses (HTLV)-1 and HTLV-2, which are transforming retroviruses; and the human immunodeficiency viruses, HIV-1 and HIV-2, which cause cytopathic effects either directly or indirectly (Chap. 225e). The most common cause of HIV disease throughout the world, and certainly in the United States, is HIV-1, which comprises several subtypes with different geographic distributions (see “Molecular Heterogeneity of HIV-1,” below). HIV-2 was first identified in 1986 in West African patients and was originally confined to West Africa. However, a number of cases that generally can be traced to West Africa or to sexual contacts with West Africans have been identified throughout the world. The currently defined groups of HIV-1 (M, N, O, P) and the HIV-2 groups A through H each are likely derived from a separate transfer to humans from a nonhuman primate reservoir. HIV-1 viruses likely came from chimpanzees and/or gorillas, and HIV-2 from sooty mangabeys. The AIDS pandemic is primarily caused by the HIV-1 M group viruses. Although HIV-1 group O and HIV-2 viruses have been found in numerous countries, including those in the developed world, they have caused much more localized epidemics. The taxonomic relationship between primate lentiviruses is shown in Fig. 226-1.


FIGURE 226-1   A phylogenetic tree based on the complete genomes of primate immunodeficiency viruses. The scale (0.10) indicates a 10% difference at the nucleotide level. (Prepared by Brian Foley, PhD, of the HIV Sequence Database, Theoretical Biology and Biophysics Group, Los Alamos National Laboratory; additional information at


Electron microscopy shows that the HIV virion is an icosahedral structure (Fig. 226-2) containing numerous external spikes formed by the two major envelope proteins, the external gp120 and the transmembrane gp41. The HIV envelope exists as a trimeric heterodimer. The virion buds from the surface of the infected cell and incorporates a variety of host proteins into its lipid bilayer. The structure of HIV-1 is schematically diagrammed in Fig. 226-2B.


FIGURE 226-2   A. Electron micrograph of HIV. Figure illustrates a typical virion following budding from the surface of a CD4+ T lymphocyte, together with two additional incomplete virions in the process of budding from the cell membrane. B. Structure of HIV-1, including the gp120 envelope, gp41 transmembrane components of the envelope, genomic RNA, enzyme reverse transcriptase, p18(17) inner membrane (matrix), and p24 core protein (capsid). (Copyright by George V. Kelvin.) (Adapted from RC Gallo: Sci Am 256:46, 1987.) C. Scanning electron micrograph of HIV-1 virions infecting a human CD4+ T lymphocyte. The original photograph was imaged at 8000× magnification. (Courtesy of Elizabeth R. Fischer, Rocky Mountain Laboratories, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases; with permission.)


HIV is an RNA virus whose hallmark is the reverse transcription of its genomic RNA to DNA by the enzyme reverse transcriptase. The replication cycle of HIV begins with the high-affinity binding of the gp120 protein via a portion of its V1 region near the N terminus to its receptor on the host cell surface, the CD4 molecule (Fig. 226-3). The CD4 molecule is a 55-kDa protein found predominantly on a subset of T lymphocytes that are responsible for helper function in the immune system (Chap. 372e). It is also expressed on the surface of monocytes/macrophages and dendritic/Langerhans cells. Once it binds to CD4, the gp120 protein undergoes a conformational change that facilitates binding to one of two major co-receptors. The two major co-receptors for HIV-1 are CCR5 and CXCR4. Both receptors belong to the family of seven-transmembrane-domain G protein–coupled cellular receptors, and the use of one or the other or both receptors by the virus for entry into the cell is an important determinant of the cellular tropism of the virus. Certain dendritic cells (DCs) express a diversity of C-type lectin receptors on their surface—one of which is called DC-SIGN—that also bind with high affinity to the HIV gp120 envelope protein, allowing DCs to facilitate virus spread to CD4+ T cells. Following binding of the envelope protein to the CD4 molecule associated with the above-mentioned conformational change in the viral envelope gp120, fusion with the host cell membrane occurs via the newly exposed gp41 molecule penetrating the plasma membrane of the target cell and then coiling upon itself to bring the virion and target cell together (Fig. 226-4). Following fusion, uncoating of the capsid protein shell is initiated—a step that facilitates reverse transcription and leads to formation of the preintegration complex, composed of viral RNA, enzymes, and accessory proteins and surrounded by capsid and matrix proteins (Fig. 226-3). As the preintegration complex traverses the cytoplasm to reach the nucleus, the viral reverse transcriptase enzyme catalyzes the reverse transcription of the genomic RNA into DNA, resulting in the formation of double-stranded proviral HIV-DNA. At the preintegration steps of the replication cycle, the viral genome is vulnerable to cellular factors that can block the progression of infection. In particular, the cytoplasmic tripartite motif-containing protein 5-α (TRIM5-α) is a host restriction factor that interacts with retroviral capsids (Fig. 226-3). Although the exact mechanisms of action of TRIM5-α remain unclear, the HIV-1 capsid is not recognized by the human form of TRIM5-α. Thus this host factor is not effective in restricting HIV-1 replication in human cells. The apolipoprotein B mRNA editing enzyme (catalytic polypeptide-like 3 [APOBEC3]) family of cellular proteins also inhibits progression of virus infection after virus has entered the cell and prior to entering the nucleus (Fig. 226-3). APOBEC3 proteins, which are incorporated into virions and released into the cytoplasm of a newly infected cell, bind to the single minus-strand DNA intermediate and deaminate viral cytidine, causing hypermutation of retroviral genomes. HIV has evolved a powerful strategy to protect itself from APOBEC. The viral protein Vif targets APOBEC3 for proteasomal degradation.


FIGURE 226-3   The replication cycle of HIV. See text for description. (Adapted from AS Fauci: Nature 384:529, 1996.)


FIGURE 226-4   Binding and fusion of HIV-1 with its target cell. HIV-1 binds to its target cell via the CD4 molecule, leading to a conformational change in the gp120 molecule that allows it to bind to the co-receptor CCR5 (for R5-using viruses). The virus then firmly attaches to the host cell membrane in a coiled-spring fashion via the newly exposed gp41 molecule. Virus-cell fusion occurs as the transitional intermediate of gp41 undergoes further changes to form a hairpin structure that draws the two membranes into close proximity (see text for details). (Adapted from D Montefiori, JP Moore: Science 283:336, 1999; with permission.)

With activation of the cell, the viral DNA accesses the nuclear pore and is exported from the cytoplasm to the nucleus, where it is integrated into the host cell chromosomes through the action of another virally encoded enzyme, integrase (Fig. 226-3). HIV provirus (DNA) integrates into the nuclear DNA preferentially within introns of active genes and regional hotspots. This provirus may remain transcriptionally inactive (latent) or it may manifest varying levels of gene expression, up to active production of virus.

Cellular activation plays an important role in the replication cycle of HIV and is critical to the pathogenesis of HIV disease (see “Pathogenesis and Pathophysiology,” below). Following initial binding, fusion, and internalization of the nucleic acid contents of virions into the target cell, incompletely reverse-transcribed DNA intermediates are labile in quiescent cells and do not integrate efficiently into the host cell genome unless cellular activation occurs shortly after infection. Furthermore, some degree of activation of the host cell is required for the initiation of transcription of the integrated proviral DNA into either genomic RNA or mRNA. This latter process may not necessarily be associated with the detectable expression of the classic cell-surface markers of activation. In this regard, activation of HIV expression from the latent state depends on the interaction of a number of cellular and viral factors. Following transcription, HIV mRNA is translated into proteins that undergo modification through glycosylation, myristoylation, phosphorylation, and cleavage. The viral particle is formed by the assembly of HIV proteins, enzymes, and genomic RNA at the plasma membrane of the cells. Budding of the progeny virion through the lipid bilayer of the host cell membrane is the point at which the core acquires its external envelope and where the host restriction factor tetherin can inhibit the release of budding particles (Fig. 226-3). Tetherin is an interferon (IFN)-induced type II transmembrane protein that interferes with virion detachment, although the HIV accessory protein Vpu counteracts the effect through direct interactions with tetherin. During or soon after budding, the virally encoded protease catalyzes the cleavage of the gag-pol precursor to yield the mature virion. Progression through the virus replication cycle is profoundly influenced by a variety of viral regulatory gene products. Likewise, each point in the replication cycle of HIV is a real or potential target for therapeutic intervention. Thus far, the reverse transcriptase, protease, and integrase enzymes as well as the process of virus–target cell binding and fusion have proved clinically to be susceptible to pharmacologic disruption.


Figure 226-5 illustrates schematically the arrangement of the HIV genome. Like other retroviruses, HIV-1 has genes that encode the structural proteins of the virus: gag encodes the proteins that form the core of the virion (including p24 antigen); pol encodes the enzymes responsible for protease processing of viral proteins, reverse transcription, and integration; and env encodes the envelope glycoproteins. However, HIV-1 is more complex than other retroviruses, particularly those of the nonprimate group, in that it also contains at least six other genes (tat, rev, nef, vif, vpr, and vpu), which code for proteins involved in the modification of the host cell to enhance virus growth and the regulation of viral gene expression. Several of these proteins are thought to play a role in the pathogenesis of HIV disease; their various functions are listed in Fig. 226-5. Flanking these genes are the long terminal repeats (LTRs), which contain regulatory elements involved in gene expression (Fig. 226-5). The major difference between the genomes of HIV-1 and HIV-2 is the fact that HIV-2 lacks the vpu gene and has a vpx gene not contained in HIV-1.


FIGURE 226-5   Organization of the genome of the HIV provirus together with a summary description of its 9 genes encoding 15 proteins. (Adapted from WC Greene, BM Peterlin: Nat Med 8:673, 2002.)


image Molecular analyses of HIV isolates reveal varying levels of sequence diversity over all regions of the viral genome. For example, the degree of difference in the coding sequences of the viral envelope protein ranges from a few percent (very close, among isolates from the same infected individual) to more than 50% (extreme diversity, between isolates from the different groups of HIV-1: M, N, O, and P). The changes tend to cluster in hypervariable regions. HIV can evolve by several means, including simple base substitution, insertions and deletions, recombination, and gain and loss of glycosylation sites. HIV sequence diversity arises directly from the limited fidelity of the reverse transcriptase. The balance of immune pressure and functional constraints on proteins influences the regional level of variation within proteins. For example, Envelope, which is exposed on the surface of the virion and is under immune selective pressure from both antibodies and cytolytic T lymphocytes, is extremely variable, with clusters of mutations in hypervariable domains. In contrast, reverse transcriptase, with important enzymatic functions, is relatively conserved, particularly around the active site. The extraordinary variability of HIV-1 contrasts markedly with the relative stability of HTLV-1 and -2.

The four groups (M, N, O and P) of HIV-1 are the result of four separate chimpanzee-to-human (or possibly gorilla-to-human for groups O and P) transfers. Group M (major), which is responsible for most of the infections in the world, has diversified into subtypes and intersubtype recombinant forms, due to “sub-epidemics” within humans after one of those transfers.

Among primate lentiviruses, HIV-1 is most closely related to viruses isolated from chimpanzees and gorillas (Fig. 226-1). The chimpanzee subspecies Pan troglodytes troglodytes has been established to be the natural reservoir of the HIV-1 M and N groups. The rare viruses of the HIV-1 O and P groups are most closely related to viruses found in Cameroonian gorillas. The M group comprises nine subtypes, or clades, designated A, B, C, D, F, G, H, J, and K, as well as more than 60 known circulating recombinant forms (CRFs) and numerous unique recombinant forms. Intersubtype recombinants are generated by infection of an individual with two subtypes that then recombine and create a virus with a selective advantage. These CRFs range from highly prevalent forms such as CRF01_AE, common in southeast Asia, and CRF02_AG from west and central Africa, to a large number of CRFs that are relatively rare, either because they are of a more recent origin (newly recombined) or because they have not broken out into a major population. The subtypes and CRFs create the major lineages of the M group of HIV-1. HIV-1 M group subtype C dominates the global pandemic, and there is much speculation that it is more transmissible than other subtypes, but solid data on transmissibility variations between subtypes are rare. Human population densities, access to prevention and treatment, prevalence of genital ulcers, iatrogenic transmissions, and other confounding host factors are all possible reasons why one subtype has spread more than another.

Figure 226-6 schematically diagrams the worldwide distribution of HIV-1 subtypes by region. Seven strains account for the vast majority of HIV infections globally: HIV-1 subtypes A, B, C, D, G and two of the CRFs, CRF01_AE and CRF02_AG. Subtype C viruses (of the M group) are by far the most common form worldwide, likely accounting for ~50% of prevalent infections worldwide. In sub-Saharan Africa, home to approximately two-thirds of all individuals living with HIV/AIDS, the majority of infections are caused by subtype C, with smaller proportions of infections caused by subtype A, subtype G, CRF02_AG, and other subtypes and recombinants. In South Africa, the country with the largest number of prevalent infections (6.3 million in 2013), >97% of the HIV-1 isolates sequenced are of subtype C. In Asia, HIV-1 isolates of the CRF01_AE lineage and subtypes C and B predominate. CRF01_AE accounts for most infections in south and southeast Asia, while >95% of infections in India, home to an estimated 2.1 million HIV-infected individuals, are of subtype C (see “HIV Infection and AIDS Worldwide,” below). Subtype B viruses are the overwhelmingly predominant viruses seen in the United States, Canada, certain countries in South America, western Europe, and Australia. It is thought that, purely by chance, subtype B was seeded into the United States and Europe in the late 1970s, thereby establishing an overwhelming founder effect. Many countries have co-circulating viral subtypes that are giving rise to new CRFs. Sequence analyses of HIV-1 isolates from infected individuals indicate that recombination among viruses of different clades likely occurs as a result of infection of an individual with viruses of more than one subtype, particularly in geographic areas where subtypes overlap, and more often in sub-epidemics driven by IV drug use than in those driven by sexual transmission.


FIGURE 226-6   Global geographic distribution of HIV-1 subtypes and recombinant forms. Distributions derived from relative frequency of subtypes among >500,000 HIV genomic sequences in the Los Alamos National Laboratory HIV Sequence Database. (Additional information available at

The extraordinary diversity of HIV, reflected by the presence of multiple subtypes, circulating recombinant forms, and continuous viral evolution, has implications for possible differential rates of transmission, rates of disease progression, responses to therapy, and the development of resistance to antiretroviral drugs. This diversity is also a formidable obstacle to HIV vaccine development, as a broadly useful vaccine would need to induce protective responses against a wide range of viral strains.


HIV is transmitted primarily by sexual contact (both heterosexual and male to male); by blood and blood products; and by infected mothers to infants intrapartum, perinatally, or via breast milk. After more than 30 years of experience and observations regarding other potential modalities of transmission, there is no evidence that HIV is transmitted by casual contact or that the virus can be spread by insects, such as by a mosquito bite. Table 226-3 lists the estimated risk of HIV transmission for various types of exposures.

TABLE 226-3




HIV infection is predominantly a sexually transmitted infection (STI) worldwide. By far the most common mode of infection, particularly in developing countries, is heterosexual transmission, although in many western countries a resurgence of male-to-male sexual transmission has occurred. Although a wide variety of factors including viral load and the presence of ulcerative genital diseases influence the efficiency of heterosexual transmission of HIV, such transmission is generally inefficient. A recent systemic review found a low per-act risk of heterosexual transmission in the absence of antiretrovirals: 0.04% for female-to-male transmission and 0.08% for male-to-female transmission during vaginal intercourse in the absence of antiretroviral therapy or condom use (Table 226-3).

HIV has been demonstrated in seminal fluid both within infected mononuclear cells and in cell-free material. The virus appears to concentrate in the seminal fluid, particularly in situations where there are increased numbers of lymphocytes and monocytes in the fluid, as in genital inflammatory states such as urethritis and epididymitis, conditions closely associated with other STIs. The virus has also been demonstrated in cervical smears and vaginal fluid. There is an elevated risk of HIV transmission associated with unprotected receptive anal intercourse (URAI) among both men and women compared to the risk associated with receptive vaginal intercourse. Although data are limited, the per-act risk for HIV transmission via URAI has been estimated to be ~1.4% (Table 226-3). The risk of HIV acquisition associated with URAI is probably higher than that seen in penile-vaginal intercourse because only a thin, fragile rectal mucosal membrane separates the deposited semen from potentially susceptible cells in and beneath the mucosa, and micro-trauma of the mucosal membrane may be associated with anal intercourse. Anal douching and sexual practices that traumatize the rectal mucosa also increase the likelihood of infection. It is likely that anal intercourse provides at least two modalities of infection: (1) direct inoculation into blood in cases of traumatic tears in the mucosa; and (2) infection of susceptible target cells, such as Langerhans cells, in the mucosal layer in the absence of trauma. Insertive anal intercourse also confers an increased risk of HIV acquisition compared to insertive vaginal intercourse. Although the vaginal mucosa is several layers thicker than the rectal mucosa and less likely to be traumatized during intercourse, the virus can be transmitted to either partner through vaginal intercourse. As noted in Table 226-3, male-to-female HIV transmission is usually more efficient than female-to-male transmission. The differences in reported transmission rates between men and women may be due in part to the prolonged exposure to infected seminal fluid of the vaginal and cervical mucosa, as well as the endometrium (when semen enters through the cervical os). By comparison, the penis and urethral orifice are exposed relatively briefly to infected vaginal fluid. Among various cofactors examined in studies of heterosexual HIV transmission, the presence of other STIs has been strongly associated with HIV transmission. In this regard, there is a close association between genital ulcerations and transmission, owing to both susceptibility to infection and infectivity. Infections with microorganisms such as Treponema pallidum (Chap. 206), Haemophilus ducreyi (Chap. 182), and herpes simplex virus (HSV; Chap. 216) are important causes of genital ulcerations linked to transmission of HIV. In addition, pathogens responsible for non-ulcerative inflammatory STIs such as those caused by Chlamydia trachomatis (Chap. 213), Neisseria gonorrhoeae (Chap. 181), and Trichomonas vaginalis (Chap. 254) also are associated with an increased risk of transmission of HIV infection. Bacterial vaginosis, an infection related to sexual behavior, but not strictly an STI, also may be linked to an increased risk of transmission of HIV infection. Several studies suggest that treating other STIs and genital tract syndromes may help prevent transmission of HIV. This effect is most prominent in populations in which the prevalence of HIV infection is relatively low. It is noteworthy that this principle may not apply to the treatment of HSV infections since it has been shown that even following anti-HSV therapy with resulting healing of HSV-related genital ulcers, HIV acquisition is not reduced. Biopsy studies revealed the likely explanation is that HIV receptor–positive inflammatory cells persisted in the genital tissue despite the healing of ulcers, and so HIV-susceptible targets remained at the site.

The quantity of HIV-1 in plasma is a primary determinant of the risk of HIV-1 transmission. In a cohort of heterosexual couples in Uganda discordant for HIV infection and not receiving antiretroviral therapy, the mean serum HIV RNA level was significantly higher among HIV-infected subjects whose partners seroconverted than among those whose partners did not seroconvert. In fact, transmission was rare when the infected partner had a plasma level of <1700 copies of HIV RNA per milliliter, even when genital ulcer disease was present (Fig. 226-7). The rate of HIV transmission per coital act was highest during the early stage of HIV infection when plasma HIV RNA levels were high and in advanced disease as the viral set point increased.


FIGURE 226-7   Probability of HIV transmission per coital act among monogamous, heterosexual, HIV-serodiscordant couples in Uganda. (From RH Gray et al: Lancet 357:1149, 2001.)

Antiretroviral therapy dramatically reduces plasma viremia in most HIV-infected individuals (see “Treatment,” below) and is associated with a reduction in risk of transmission. In a large study of serodiscordant couples, earlier treatment of the HIV-infected partner with antiretroviral therapy rather than treatment delayed until the CD4+ T cells count fell below 250 cells per μL was associated with a 96% reduction in HIV transmission to the uninfected partner. This approach has been widely referred to as treatment as prevention or TasP. Several studies also have suggested a beneficial effect of antiretroviral treatment at the community level.

A number of studies including large, randomized, controlled trials clearly have indicated that male circumcision is associated with a lower risk of acquisition of HIV infection for heterosexual men. Studies are conflicting as to whether circumcision protects against HIV acquisition among men who have sex with men, but data suggest that circumcision is protective in those men who have sex with men who are insertive only. The benefit of circumcision may be due to increased susceptibility of uncircumcised men to ulcerative STIs, as well as to other factors such as microtrauma to the foreskin and glans penis. In addition, the highly vascularized inner foreskin tissue contains a high density of Langerhans cells as well as increased numbers of CD4+ T cells, macrophages, and other cellular targets for HIV. Finally, the moist environment under the foreskin may promote the presence or persistence of microbial flora that, via inflammatory changes, may lead to even higher concentrations of target cells for HIV in the foreskin. In addition, randomized trials have demonstrated that male circumcision also reduces hepatitis C virus (HCV) type 2, human papillomavirus virus (HPV), and genital ulcer disease in men as well as HPV, genital ulcer disease, bacterial vaginosis, and Trichomonas vaginalis infections among female partners of circumcised men. Thus, there may be an added benefit of diminution of risk for HIV acquisition to the female sexual partners of circumcised men.

In some studies the use of oral contraceptives was associated with an increase in incidence of HIV infection over and above that which might be expected by not using a condom for birth control. This phenomenon may be due to drug-induced changes in the cervical mucosa, rendering it more vulnerable to penetration by the virus. Adolescent girls might also be more susceptible to infection upon exposure due to the properties of an immature genital tract with increased cervical ectopy or exposed columnar epithelium.

Oral sex is a much less efficient mode of transmission of HIV than is anal intercourse or vaginal intercourse (Table 226-3). A number of studies have reported that the incidence of transmission of infection by oral sex among couples discordant for HIV was extremely low. However, there have been well-documented reports of HIV transmission that likely resulted from fellatio or cunnilingus. Therefore, the assumption that oral sex is completely safe is not warranted.

The association of alcohol consumption and illicit drug use with unsafe sexual behavior, both homosexual and heterosexual, leads to an increased risk of sexual transmission of HIV. Methamphetamine and other so-called club drugs (e.g., ecstasy, ketamine, and gamma hydroxybutyrate), sometimes taken in conjunction with PDE-5 inhibitors such as sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), or vardenafil (Levitra), have been associated with risky sexual practices and increased risk of HIV infection, particularly among men who have sex with men.


HIV can be transmitted to injection drug users (IDUs) who are exposed to HIV while sharing injection paraphernalia such as needles, syringes, the water in which drugs are mixed, or the cotton through which drugs are filtered. Parenteral transmission of HIV during injection drug use does not require IV puncture; SC (“skin popping”) or IM (“muscling”) injections can transmit HIV as well, even though these behaviors are sometimes erroneously perceived as low-risk. Among IDUs, the risk of HIV infection increases with the duration of injection drug use; the frequency of needle sharing; the number of partners with whom paraphernalia are shared, particularly in the setting of “shooting galleries” where drugs are sold and large numbers of IDUs may share a limited number of “works”; comorbid psychiatric conditions such as antisocial personality disorder; the use of cocaine in injectable form or smoked as “crack”; and the use of injection drugs in a geographic location with a high prevalence of HIV infection, such as certain inner-city areas in the United States. As noted in Table 226-3, the per-act risk of transmission from injection drug use with a contaminated needle has been estimated to be approximately 0.6%.


HIV can be transmitted to individuals who receive HIV-tainted blood transfusions, blood products, or transplanted tissue. The first cases of AIDS among transfusion recipients and individuals with hemophilia or other clotting disorders were reported in 1982. The vast majority of HIV infections acquired via contaminated blood transfusions, blood components, or transplanted tissue in resource-rich countries occurred prior to the spring of 1985, when mandatory testing of donated blood for HIV-1 was initiated. It is estimated that >90% of individuals exposed to HIV-contaminated blood products become infected (Table 226-3). Although blood screening for HIV is becoming more universal even in the developing world, unfortunately, in some resource-poor countries, HIV continues to be transmitted by blood, blood products, and tissues due to inadequate screening. Transfusions of whole blood, packed red blood cells, platelets, leukocytes, and plasma are all capable of transmitting HIV infection. In contrast, hyperimmune gamma globulin, hepatitis B immune globulin, plasma-derived hepatitis B vaccine, and Rho immune globulin have not been associated with transmission of HIV infection. The procedures involved in processing these products either inactivate or remove the virus.

Currently, in the United States and in most developed countries, the following measures have made the risk of transmission of HIV infection by transfused blood or blood products extremely small: the screening of blood donations for antibodies to HIV-1 and HIV-2 and determination of the presence of HIV nucleic acid usually in minipools of several specimens; the careful selection of potential blood donors with health history questionnaires to exclude individuals with risk behavior; and opportunities for self-deferral and the screening out of HIV-negative individuals with serologic testing for infections that have shared risk factors with HIV, such as hepatitis B and C and syphilis. The chance of infection of a hemophiliac via clotting factor concentrates has essentially been eliminated because of the added layer of safety resulting from heat treatment of the concentrates. It is currently estimated that the risk of infection with HIV in the United States via transfused screened blood is approximately 1 in 2 million units. Therefore, since ~16 million donations are collected in the United States each year, despite the best efforts of science, one cannot completely eliminate the risk of transfusion-related transmission of HIV. In this regard, a case of transfusion-related transmission of HIV was reported in the United States in 2010, which was tracked to a blood donation in 2008; this was the first such reported case since 2002. Transmission of HIV (both HIV-1 and HIV-2) by blood or blood products is still an ongoing threat in certain developing countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where routine screening of blood is not universally practiced. In other countries, there have been reports of sporadic breakdowns in routinely available screening procedures in which contaminated blood was allowed to be transfused, resulting in small clusters of patients becoming infected. For example, in China in the 1990s, a disturbingly large number of persons became infected by selling blood in situations where the collectors reused needles that were contaminated and, in some instances, mixed blood products from a number of individuals, separated the plasma, and reinfused mixed red blood cells back into the individual donors.


There is a small but definite occupational risk of HIV transmission to health care workers and laboratory personnel and potentially others who work with HIV-containing materials, particularly when sharp objects are used. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 health care workers are stuck with needles or other sharp medical instruments in the United States each year. The global number of HIV infections among health care workers attributable to sharps injuries has been estimated to be 1000 cases (range, 200–5000) per year. As of 2010, there had been 57 documented cases of occupational HIV transmission to health care workers in the United States and 143 possible transmissions. There have been no confirmed cases reported since 1999.

Exposures that place a health care worker at potential risk of HIV infection are percutaneous injuries (e.g., a needle stick or cut with a sharp object) or contact of mucous membrane or nonintact skin (e.g., exposed skin that is chapped, abraded, or afflicted with dermatitis) with blood, tissue, or other potentially infectious body fluids. Large, multi-institutional studies have indicated that the risk of HIV transmission following skin puncture from a needle or a sharp object that was contaminated with blood from a person with documented HIV infection is ~0.3% and after a mucous membrane exposure it is 0.09% (see “HIV and the Health Care Worker,” below) if the injured and/or exposed person is not treated within 24 h with antiretroviral drugs. The risk of hepatitis B virus (HBV) infection following a similar type of exposure is ~6–30% in nonimmune individuals; if a susceptible worker is exposed to HBV, postexposure prophylaxis with hepatitis B immune globulin and initiation of HBV vaccine is >90% effective in preventing HBV infection. The risk of HCV infection following percutaneous injury is ~1.8% (Chap. 360).

Rare HIV transmission after nonintact skin exposure has been documented, but the average risk for transmission by this route has not been precisely determined; however, it is estimated to be less than the risk for mucous membrane exposure. Transmission of HIV through intact skin has not been documented. Currently in developed countries, virtually all puncture wounds and mucous membrane exposures in health care workers involving blood from a patient with documented HIV infection are treated prophylactically with combination antiretroviral therapy (cART). This practice, referred to as postexposure prophylaxis or PEP, has dramatically reduced the occurrence of puncture-related transmissions of HIV to health care workers.

In addition to blood and visibly bloody body fluids, semen and vaginal secretions also are considered potentially infectious; however, they have not been implicated in occupational transmission from patients to health care workers. The following fluids also are considered potentially infectious: cerebrospinal fluid, synovial fluid, pleural fluid, peritoneal fluid, pericardial fluid, and amniotic fluid. The risk for transmission after exposure to fluids or tissues other than HIV-infected blood also has not been quantified, but it is probably considerably lower than the risk after blood exposures. Feces, nasal secretions, saliva, sputum, sweat, tears, urine, and vomitus are not considered potentially infectious for HIV unless they are visibly bloody. Rare cases of HIV transmission via human bites have been reported, but not in the setting of occupational exposure.

An increased risk for HIV infection following percutaneous exposures to HIV-infected blood is associated with exposures involving a relatively large quantity of blood, as in the case of a device visibly contaminated with the patient’s blood, a procedure that involves a hollow-bore needle placed directly in a vein or artery, or a deep injury. Factors that might be associated with mucocutaneous transmission of HIV include exposure to an unusually large volume of blood and prolonged contact. In addition, the risk increases for exposures to blood from untreated patients with advanced-stage disease or those patients in the acute stage of HIV infection, owing to the higher levels of HIV in the blood under those circumstances. Since the beginning of the HIV epidemic, there have been rare instances where transmission of infection from a health care worker to patients seemed highly probable. Despite these small number of documented cases, the risk of HIV transmission involving health care workers (infected or not) to patients is extremely low in developed countries—in fact, too low to be measured accurately. In this regard, several epidemiologic studies have been performed tracing thousands of patients of HIV-infected dentists, physicians, surgeons, obstetricians, and gynecologists, and no other cases of HIV transmission that could be linked to the health care providers were identified.

Breaches in infection control and the reuse of contaminated syringes, failure to properly sterilize surgical instruments, and/or hemodialysis equipment have also resulted rarely in the transmission of HIV from patient to patient in hospitals, nursing homes, and outpatient settings. Finally, these very rare occurrences of transmission of HIV as well as HBV and HCV to and from health care workers in the workplace underscore the importance of the use of universal precautions when caring for all patients (see below and Chap. 168).


HIV infection can be transmitted from an infected mother to her fetus during pregnancy, during delivery, or by breast-feeding. This remains an important form of transmission of HIV infection in certain developing countries, where the proportion of infected women to infected men is ~1:1. Virologic analyses of aborted fetuses indicate that HIV can be transmitted to the fetus during the first or second trimesters of pregnancy. However, maternal transmission to the fetus occurs most commonly in the perinatal period. Two studies performed in Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (then called Zaire) indicated that among all mother-to-child transmissions of HIV, the relative proportions were 23–30% before birth, 50–65% during birth, and 12–20% via breast-feeding.

In the absence of prophylactic antiretroviral therapy to the mother during pregnancy, labor, and delivery, and to the fetus following birth, the probability of transmission of HIV from mother to infant/fetus ranges from 15% to 25% in industrialized countries and from 25% to 35% in developing countries. These differences may relate to the adequacy of prenatal care as well as to the stage of HIV disease and the general health of the mother during pregnancy. Higher rates of transmission have been reported to be associated with many factors—the best documented of which is the presence of high maternal levels of plasma viremia, with the risk increasing linearly with the level of maternal plasma viremia. It is very unlikely that mother-to-child transmission will occur if the mother’s level of plasma viremia is <1000 copies of HIV RNA/mL of blood and extremely unlikely if the level is undetectable (i.e., <50 copies/mL). However, there may not be a lower “threshold” below which transmission never occurs, since certain studies have reported rare transmission by women with viral RNA levels <50 copies/mL. Increased mother-to-child transmission is also correlated with closer human leukocyte antigen (HLA) match between mother and child. A prolonged interval between membrane rupture and delivery is another well-documented risk factor for transmission. Other conditions that are potential risk factors, but that have not been consistently demonstrated, are the presence of chorioamnionitis at delivery; STIs during pregnancy; illicit drug use during pregnancy; cigarette smoking; preterm delivery; and obstetric procedures such as amniocentesis, amnioscopy, fetal scalp electrodes, and episiotomy. In a seminal study conducted in the United States and France in the 1990s, zidovudine treatment of HIV-infected pregnant women from the beginning of the second trimester through delivery and of the infant for 6 weeks following birth dramatically decreased the rate of intrapartum and perinatal transmission of HIV infection from 22.6% in the untreated group to <5%. Today, the rate of mother-to-child transmission has fallen to 1% or less in pregnant women who are receiving combination antiretroviral therapy (cART) for their HIV infection. Such treatment, combined with cesarean section delivery, has rendered mother-to-child transmission of HIV an unusual event in the United States and other developed nations. In this regard, both the United States Public Health Service and the World Health Organization guidelines recommend that all pregnant HIV-infected women should receive cART for the health of the mother and to prevent perinatal transmission regardless of plasma HIV RNA copy number or CD4+ T cell counts.

Breast-feeding is an important modality of transmission of HIV infection in developing countries, particularly where mothers continue to breast-feed for prolonged periods. The risk factors for mother-to-child transmission of HIV via breast-feeding are not fully understood; factors that increase the likelihood of transmission include detectable levels of HIV in breast milk, the presence of mastitis, low maternal CD4+ T cell counts, and maternal vitamin A deficiency. The risk of HIV infection via breast-feeding is highest in the early months of breast-feeding. In addition, exclusive breast-feeding has been reported to carry a lower risk of HIV transmission than mixed feeding. In developed countries, breast feeding of babies by an HIV-infected mother is contraindicated since alternative forms of adequate nutrition, i.e., formulas, are readily available. In developing countries, where breast-feeding may be essential for the overall health of the infant, the continuation of cART in the infected mother during the period of breastfeeding markedly diminishes the risk of transmission of HIV to the infant. In fact, once cART has been initiated in a pregnant woman, many experts recommend that therapy be continued for life.


Although HIV can be isolated typically in low titers from saliva of a small proportion of infected individuals, there is no convincing evidence that saliva can transmit HIV infection, either through kissing or through other exposures, such as occupationally to health care workers. Saliva contains endogenous antiviral factors; among these factors, HIV-specific immunoglobulins of IgA, IgG, and IgM isotypes are detected readily in salivary secretions of infected individuals. It has been suggested that large glycoproteins such as mucins and thrombospondin 1 sequester HIV into aggregates for clearance by the host. In addition, a number of soluble salivary factors inhibit HIV to various degrees in vitro, probably by targeting host cell receptors rather than the virus itself. Perhaps the best studied of these, secretory leukocyte protease inhibitor (SLPI), blocks HIV infection in several cell culture systems, and it is found in saliva at levels that approximate those required for inhibition of HIV in vitro. In this regard, higher salivary levels of SLPI in breast-fed infants were associated with a decreased risk of HIV transmission through breast milk. It has also been suggested that submandibular saliva reduces HIV infectivity by stripping gp120 from the surface of virions, and that saliva-mediated disruption and lysis of HIV-infected cells occurs because of the hypotonicity of oral secretions. There have been outlier cases of suspected transmission by saliva, but these have probably been blood-to-blood transmissions. Transmission of HIV by a human bite can occur but is a rare event. Although virus can be identified, if not isolated, from virtually any body fluid, there is no evidence that HIV transmission can occur as a result of exposure to tears, sweat, or urine. However, there have been isolated cases of transmission of HIV infection by body fluids that may or may not have been contaminated with blood. Most of these situations occurred in the setting of a close relative providing intensive nursing care for an HIV-infected person without observing universal precautions, underscoring the importance of adhering to such precautions in the handling of body fluids and wastes from HIV-infected individuals.



image HIV infection/AIDS is a global pandemic, with cases reported from virtually every country. At the end of 2013, an estimated 35.0 million individuals were living with HIV infection, according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). An estimated 95% of people living with HIV/AIDS reside in low- and middle-income countries; ~50% are female, and 3.2 million are children <15 years. The distribution of these cases is illustrated in Fig. 226-8. The estimated number of people living with HIV—i.e., the global prevalence—has increased more than fourfold since 1990, reflecting the combined effects of continued high rates of new HIV infections and the life-prolonging impact of antiretroviral therapy (Fig. 226-9). In 2013, the global prevalence rate among persons age 15–49 years was 0.8%, with rates varying widely by country and region as illustrated in Fig. 226-10.


FIGURE 226-8   Estimated number of adults and children living with HIV infection as of December, 2013. Total: 35.0 (33.2 million–37.2 million). (From Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS [UNAIDS].)

In 2013, an estimated 2.1 million new cases of HIV infection occurred worldwide, including 240,000 among children <15 years; about 40% of new infections were among persons under age 25. Between 2001 and 2013, the estimated number of new HIV infections globally fell by 38% (Fig. 226-9). Recent reductions in global HIV incidence likely reflect progress with HIV prevention efforts and the increased provision to HIV-infected people of antiretroviral therapy, which makes them much less likely to transmit the virus to sexual partners. In 2013, global AIDS deaths totaled 1.5 million (including 190,000 children <15 years), a 35% decrease since 2005 that coincides with a rapid expansion of access to antiretroviral therapy (Fig. 226-9). Since the beginning of the pandemic, an estimated 39 million people have died of an AIDS-related illness.


FIGURE 226-9   Global estimates of HIV incidence and AIDS deaths (left) and, HIV prevalence (right), 1990–2013. (From UNAIDS.)

The HIV epidemic has occurred in “waves” in different regions of the world, each wave having somewhat different characteristics depending on the demographics of the country and region in question and the timing of the introduction of HIV into the population. Although the AIDS epidemic was first recognized in the United States and shortly thereafter in Western Europe, it very likely began in sub-Saharan Africa (see above), which has been particularly devastated by the epidemic. More than 70% of all people with HIV infection (~25 million), and nearly 90% of all HIV-infected children live in that region, even though sub-Saharan Africa is home to just 12% of the world’s population (Fig. 226-8). Within the region, southern Africa is worst-affected. In nine southern African countries, seroprevalence data indicate that >10% of the adult population age 15–49 is HIV-infected (Fig. 226-10). In addition, among high-risk individuals (e.g., commercial sex workers, patients attending STI clinics) who live in urban areas of sub-Saharan Africa, seroprevalence is now >50% in some places. Recent data offer promising signs of declining HIV incidence and prevalence in many countries in the region, although frequently at levels that remain high. Heterosexual exposure is

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