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May 2, 1986

Heterosexual Contact Is Not the Predominant Mode of HTLV-III Transmission Among Intravenous Drug Abusers

Author Affiliations

Centro di Riferimento Oncologico Aviano, Italy

JAMA. 1986;255(17):2289. doi:10.1001/jama.1986.03370170053010

To the Editor.—  The very high prevalence of antibodies to human T-cell lymphotropic virus type III (HTLV-III) reported in the article by Clumeck et al1 among groups of heterosexual Africans confirms that heterosexual contact plays a major role in the propagation of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), at least in Central Africa. To evaluate the role of heterosexual contact as opposed to the sharing of contaminated needles for HTLV-III transmission among intravenous (IV) drug abusers, between May and October 1985 we fully evaluated 30 couples in which both persons were IV drug abusers and 21 couples in which only one was an IV drug abuser (19 male and two female) while each had a heterosexual partner not belonging to known groups at risk for AIDS and a stable, long-term heterosexual relationship (>1 year; median duration, 2.5 years). All IV drug abusers admitted frequent sharing of syringes. Sexual behavior, evaluated through