Disappointment as tenofovir gel study bombs

2011-12-02 00:00

PROFESSOR Salim Abdool Karim, director of the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (Caprisa) expressed his disappointment at recent findings showing that tenofovir gel does not effectively reduce HIV infections in women.

Caprisa carried the study.

This follows the announcement this week that tenofovir gel, a clinical trial vaginal preparation designed to reduce HIV infections, has been found to be ineffective and is to be suspended.

Karim was speaking to journalists during the World Aids Day commemorations at Mafakatini area in Vulindlela yesterday, where the community came in their numbers.

Among those in attendance were local inkosi Sondelani Zondi, inkosi Nsikayezwe Zondi and Science and Technology Deputy Minister Derek Hanekom.

Karim thanked the women from the area who volunteered for the study, even thoughthe gel was found to be ineffective in a recent study conducted by the National Institutes of Health in the United States

The U.S. version of the Caprisa study is known as the vaginal and oral interventions to control the epidemic (Voice).

“We do not know how the Voice was conducted, but we cannot dismiss their findings,” Karim said, adding that Caprisa still has to conduct its own research.

He said the Caprisa study showed that 39% of women who used the gel within two hours before sex and two hours after displayed reduced HIV infections, while the gel actually killed off infections in 59% of women who used it regularly.

“However the Voice study revealed that women had to use it every day, not only when they are having sex, and we have no way of knowing how honest they were when asked if they have used the gel,” said Karim.

He said the researchers were disappointed with the Voice results because they were hoping that it would corroborate those of the Caprisa.

“We did not want a situation of learning of our failure after the gel was distributed throughout the country. But this has also delayed our plans to have the gel distributed by 2013,” said Karim.

He said Caprisa will conduct a study to determine where the study had erred, and that it will take about four to six months to phase out its study of women in the Vulundlela area.

Hanekom said, “We as the government are committed to supporting the work done by Caprisa because we cannot give in just because of the recent findings. It is our responsibility as the government to fight this pandemic until a solution has been found, but we are convinced that we are winning our war against HIV and Aids.”

• thobani.ngqulunga@witness.co.za

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