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Virological treatment outcome under HAART: does sex matter?


In Germany, 17% of 59,000 persons living with HIV/AIDS are female. Accordingly, the research focus in clinical studies as well as in cohort analyses has been almost exclusively on HIV-positive men. As a consequence, there is an urgent need to characterize and evaluate the outcome of HAART in HIV-positive women and to identify special requirements of this particular patient population.


Cross-sectional multicentre (n = 31 centres) evaluation to observe characteristics of 1,557 HIV-positive women receiving medical care in Germany between June 2007 and March 2008. Data acquisition was performed using standardized questionnaires.

Summary of results

Of 1,557 HIV-positive women studied, 1,191 (77%) received HAART. Mean age was 40 years and average time of known HIV-infection was 9 years. Risk of HIV transmission was: 40% heterosexual intercourse in Germany, 36% heterosexual intercourse in a high prevalence country; 17% IDU; 7% other reasons for transmission. 46% of the women had a migration background. Mean time on antiretroviral treatment was 7 years. 53% of the female participants had been treated with >2 HAART-regimens. 47% of the study subjects received a PI-based regimen, 33% a NNRTI-based regimen; 20% were on other combinations. The most commonly used PI and NNRTI were lopinavir/r and nevirapine, respectively. Only 48% of all women under HAART achieved a viral load <40 copies/ml. There was a significant difference between the PI-treated group with 44% patients <40 copies/ml and the NNRTI-treated group with 56% <40 copies/ml (p = 0.003).


We found that HIV-positive women depicted an inferior virological response to HAART compared to those previously published in German cohort analyses dominated by men (response rates >75%). Possible differences in adherence or drug resistance may have impacted these results and are currently being evaluated in ongoing sub-analyses. Of note, the lack of a study arm with male patients is a limitation of this investigation. However, this is partly off-set by the fact that there are good comparative data in the male population found in other cohorts. We conclude that our results are in discordance to the popular assumption that there are no gender specific differences in virological treatment outcome of HAART.

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Open Access This article is published under license to BioMed Central Ltd. This is an Open Access article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 International License (, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

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Haberl, A., Usadel, S., Hanhoff, N. et al. Virological treatment outcome under HAART: does sex matter?. JIAS 11 (Suppl 1), P71 (2008).

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