Friday, October 17, 2008
News from UK: Exciting Developments in Search for Anti-HIV Microbicides
The last couple of years have seen a series of disappointing results in the search for a new method of preventing HIV infection. While a number of exciting new drugs, including some from totally new classes, were being made available, at the same time there was a series of failures in prevention trials.
The most devastating of these was the closure of the STEP trial of an HIV vaccine. This has sent HIV vaccine research back to the drawing board. Some scientists question whether a conventional vaccine against HIV will ever be possible.
There were some other disappointments too. A trial amongst African women called MIRA found that the diaphragm used in contraception did not protect against HIV. And a trial to see if treating people’s herpes infections would also protect them against catching HIV produced negative results.
Other ideas are still being tested: One is pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP – giving people HIV drugs to stop them catching the virus, rather than to treat it. This is a controversial concept and it’s proved difficult to get trials off the ground. However we now have trials amongst gay men in South America and in heterosexuals in Africa taking place and researchers are hopeful that clear results will be achieved by 2010/11.
Microbicides could eventually be sold over the counter and incorporated into standard sex lubes. They’re the first HIV prevention method that would put the power to prevent HIV into the hand of women and passive gay men. And they could even make sex more fun!