A group of 58 heterosexual female partners (FP) of human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1)-seropositive hemophiliacs was studied by conventional diagnostic methods such as enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and Western blot analysis to examine whether any had acquired HIV-1 infection through sexual transmission. A subset of 29 FP were asked to answer a detailed questionnaire concerning their health, use of “safer sex” techniques, and other risk factors for HIV-1 infection. They also had additional blood drawn for CD4 cell analysis, viral cultures, nef, gag, and env immunoblots, and polymerase chain reaction (PCR) analysis to assess the occurrence of “silent” HIV-1 infection in a high-risk seronegative population. Among the 58 FP, three were found to be HIV-1-seropositive on first testing, with no new seroconversions occurring with subsequent testing in the remaining 55. Two seropositive FP had the additional testing and were found to have positive viral cultures, as well as positive PCR results. All of the seronegative FP (n = 24) who had additional testing were negative in viral culture, had negative immunoblots, and had no HIV-1 nucleic acid sequences detected by PCR. Thus, in this population, silent HIV-1 infection appears to be a rare occurrence and antibody testing seems to correlate with the more sensitive techniques of PCR and viral cultures.

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