Deciphering the impact of sex on immune cell activation, nature of the HIV reservoir and reactivation in the presence or absence of sex hormones in ART-suppressed people living with HIV

Despite the success of antiretroviral therapy (ART) in managing clinical disease and preventing viral transmission, there is still no vaccine or cure for HIV. The persistence of virus-infected human cells that remain dormant during ART, poses a significant barrier to achieving a complete cure for HIV. These viral residues termed “viral reservoir” can rebound and generate active viruses when treatment is discontinued. Although men and women respond effectively to ART, women tend to experience much more elevated non-AIDS related comorbidities than men despite presenting lower plasma viremia. Factors associated with this increased susceptibility and better viral control in women are still not clearly defined. Umviligihozo’s study aims to assess the viral reservoir in men and women of the same age and genetic background who are virally suppressed by ART, to determine human and viral factors that may explain the differences observed between men and women, more particularly focusing on sex specific hormones. Gaining a deeper understanding if these gender-specific variations, holds the potential to inform prevention and therapeutic interventions that account for the unique biological factors.

SANTHE is an Africa Health Research Institute (AHRI) flagship programme funded by the Science for Africa Foundation through the DELTAS Africa programme; the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; Gilead Sciences Inc.; and the Ragon Institute of Mass General, MIT, and Harvard.