Despite tremendous advances in our understanding of HIV/AIDS since the first cases were reported 30 years ago, we are still a long way from understanding critical steps of HIV acquisition, pathogenesis and correlates of protection. Our new understanding of the importance of the mucosa as a target for HIV infection, as well as our recent observations showing that altered expression and responses of innate pattern recognition receptors are significantly associated with pathogenesis and resistance to HIV infection, indicate that correlates of immunity to HIV are more likely to be associated with mucosal and innate responses. Most of the heterosexual encounters do not result in productive HIV infection, suggesting that the female genital tract is protected against HIV by innate defence molecules, such as antiproteases, secreted mucosally. The present review highlights the role and significance of the serine protease inhibitors SLPI (secretory leucocyte protease inhibitor), trappin-2, elafin and ps20 (prostate stromal protein 20 kDa) in HIV susceptibility and infection. Interestingly, in contrast with SLPI, trappin-2 and elafin, ps20 has been shown to enhance HIV infectivity. Thus understanding the balance and interaction of these factors in mucosal fluids may significantly influence HIV infection.

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