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Shedding of Hepatitis C Virus in Semen of Human Immunodeficiency Virus-Infected Men.

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Background.  The epidemic of sexually transmitted hepatitis C virus (HCV) infection among human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)-infected men who have sex with men (MSM) has been documented for over a decade. Despite this, there is no consensus as to the risk factors for sexual acquisition of HCV in these men. Methods.  We obtained paired semen and blood samples at 2-week intervals from HIV-infected MSM with recent and chronic HCV infection and quantified HCV in semen. Results.  Hepatitis C virus was quantified in 59 semen specimens from 33 men. Hepatitis C virus was shed in 16 (27%) of semen specimens from 11 (33%) of the men. Median HCV viral load (VL) in semen was 1.49 log10 IU/mL. Hepatitis C virus VL in blood was significantly higher at the time of HCV shedding in semen than when HCV shedding in semen was not detected (P = .002). Furthermore, there was a significant correlation between the HCV VL in blood and semen overall (rs = 0.41; P = .001), and in the subgroup with recent HCV infection (rs = 0.37; P = .02), but not in the subgroup with chronic HCV infection (rs = 0.34; P = .1). Conclusions.  One third of HIV-infected MSM coinfected with HCV shed HCV into their semen. Based on the HCV VL in semen in this study, an average ejaculate would deliver up to 6630 IU of virus into the rectum of the receptive partner. Therefore, our data strongly support that condoms should be used during anal intercourse among MSM to prevent transmission of HCV.

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