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Sep 19, 2007 News: Yet Another Proposal to Cut Down HIV Infections
By Danny Sonnenschein

(USA) - Researchers on the University of Pittsburgh have suggested giving antiretroviral drug tenofovir to uninfected individuals in order to protect them from HIV infection. The medicine has been tested on monkeys and proved to be very effective against a version of the HI virus. Tenofovir is a drug which is already used in AIDS treatment, and now it is reportedly being tested in humans for the specific purpose of preventive tratment. The US researchers claimed the suggested strategy of prescribing HIV medicine to healthy people could significantly inhibit the spread of HIV in Africa.

Ume Abbas, an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, was quoted by Health24.com saying "This could represent another tool in our arsenal against HIV infection."

John Mellors, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh, whose main research objective is to discover and characterize viral variants of the HI-virus that are resistant to antiretrovirals, was quoted saying:

"Our data highlights the enormous potential public health benefit of pre-exposure chemoprophylaxis against HIV, provided the regimen is efficacious and used consistently daily for a number of years."

To further support their claims, the researchers performed a computer simulation with three different scenarios, considereing variables such as actual drug efficiency and percentage of the sexually active population participating in the program. The calculations included a 10-years run of the suggested prevention and monitoring program.

In a best case scenario, the parameter describing the efficiency of the medicine was set to 90%, and it was assumed that 75% of the population between 15 and 49 year old would get their pill every day. When the efficiency was set to 60%, and the user quota set to 50% of the sexually active population, the calculated drop in infections lowered to 25%. Finally, a scenario with only 30% efficiency and 25% of population reach, new HIV infection cases were decreased only by 3%.

The researchers in particularly pointed out, that their approach, if proved effective, could save millions of lives in sub-Saharan Africa. Sub-Saharan Africa is the region most affected by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, with more than 22 million adults already infected with the virus.

The findings will probably remain merely a theoretical suggestion in the HIV prevention efforts. Even most educated individuals fail to protect themselves from HIV by using condoms (a cheap and widely available product in industrial societies). It is unlikely that people in sub-Sahara can be actually pursuaded to use unnecessary medicine causing nausea, diarrhea and vomiting, when it is so expensive that most of them can’s afford it even when they actually become ill.

The results of human trials, which involve Gay and Bisexual men, are expected not to be available before early 2008.

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