Both qualitative and quantitative virologic measurements were compared between blood and genital compartments for 128 men infected with human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) to address several controversial issues concerning HIV-1 shedding in semen and to obtain further information about the distribution of virus between these two compartments. Evidence for viral compartmentalization was suggested by earlier studies that noted the poor correlation between blood and seminal virus load, phenotype, and genotype. Further support for this viral compartmentalization was based on the following observations between semen and blood: lack of association between culturability of virus in semen and viral RNA level in blood, discordant distribution of viral phenotypes, discordant viral RNA levels, a weak correlation between viral RNA level in semen and CD4 cell count in blood, differences in the biologic variability of viral RNA levels, and differences in the virus load response to antiretroviral therapy.

Author notes

Present affiliation: Southern California Kaiser Permanente, Pasadena, California.