Open Access Study protocol

Partners of people on ART - a New Evaluation of the Risks (The PARTNER study): design and methods

Alison Rodger1*, Tina Bruun2, Matthew Weait3, Pietro Vernazza4, Simon Collins5, Vicente Estrada6, Jan Van Lunzen7, Giulio Maria Corbelli8, Fiona Lampe1, Andrew Phillips1, Jens Lundgren2 and and the PARTNER study group

Author Affiliations

1 Research Department of Infection & Population Health, University College London, London, UK

2 Copenhagen HIV Programme, University of Copenhagen & Rigshospitalet, Copenhagen, DK, UK

3 School of Law, Birkbeck College, London, UK

4 Cantonal Hospital, St. Gallen, Switzerland

5 HIV i-Base, London, UK

6 Hospital Clinico San Carlos, Madrid, Spain

7 University Medical Center Hamburg-Eppendorf, Hamburg-Eppendorf, Germany

8 European AIDS Treatment group, Bruxelles, Belgium

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BMC Public Health 2012, 12:296  doi:10.1186/1471-2458-12-296

Published: 20 April 2012



It is known that being on antiretroviral therapy reduces the risk of HIV transmission through sex. However it remains unknown what the absolute level of risk of transmission is in a person on ART with most recent measured HIV plasma viral load<50 c/mL in the absence of condom use. There are no data on risk of transmission for anal sex in MSM when the index partner is on ART.


The PARTNER study is an international, observational multi-centre study, taking place from 2010 to 2014 in which HIV serodifferent partnerships who at enrolment reported recently having had condom-less vaginal or anal sexual intercourse are followed over time, with 46 monthly reporting of transmission risk behaviour through a confidential self completed risk behaviour questionnaire and with 46 monthly HIV testing for the HIV negative partner. The objective is to study (i) the risk of HIV transmission to partners, in particular in partnerships that continue not to use condoms consistently and the HIV-positive partner is on therapy with a viral load<50 copies/mL and (ii) why some partnerships do not use condoms, to describe the proportion who begin to adopt consistent condom use, and factors associated with this. For any negative partner who becomes infected phylogenetic analysis will be used following anonymisation of the samples to assess if transmission had been from the HIV infected partner.


This observational study will provide missing information on the absolute risk of HIV transmission for both vaginal and anal sex when the index case is on ART with a VL<50 copies/mL in the absence of condom use.

Serodifferent; HIV; Transmission; Antiretroviral therapy