Wednesday, December 15, 2010

PEPFAR may soon begin distributing microbicide gels

Earlier this year, a clinical trial found great promise for the use of microbicide gels to prevent the spread of AIDS. In an interview with Reuters Alert Net, the head of the US President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief program says they would like to start distributing the gels once regulatory hurdles are cleared.

Writer Andrew Quinn interviews PEPFAR head Eric Goosby talks about the future methods of the program.

"We would support PReP in terms of high risk populations," Goosby, the U.S. Global AIDS coordinator, told Reuters, adding that various country approval plans were already under internal consideration.

Goosby said microbicide gels -- a focus of hope since a South African clinical trial this year showed at least one version lowered HIV infection rates -- could also play a part once full regulatory approval is obtained and more is understood about how they work.

"We haven't worked out the delivery system or the dosing or interval of application," Goosby said. "We are absolutely positioned to engage in it as soon as we know those."

Goosby spoke as PEPFAR signed a new five-year deal with South Africa to bolster its AIDS fight, signaling a deepening cooperation between Washington and a country once depicted as representing the wrong approach to the AIDS epidemic.

The addition of PrEP and microbicide gels could represent a potentially large new budget item for PEPFAR, the $18.8 billion program launched by former President George W. Bush, but Goosby said new efficiencies in both care and treatment were already streamlining the overall bill.

He said South Africa had proposed using PrEP to treat uninfected inmates in South Africa's prisons -- a major vector for HIV -- while pilot projects elsewhere were looking at sex workers and men who have sex with men.

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