Final trial for HIV gel to start soon

The final 24-month trial of a gel that researchers hope would help prevent HIV transmission, was expected to start end-July or early August.

Wits professor Helen Reese, of the university's reproductive health and HIV institute, said in Pretoria that the R300-million trial would involve about 2200 sexually active women at seven locations countrywide.

The tenofovir gel study - known as Follow-on African Consortium for Tenofovir Studies (Facts) study - is a follow-up to the Caprisa 004 study which showed that a highly consistent use of the microbicide by women resulted in a 59% reduction in the risk of HIV infection.

The Facts study

The Facts study will see the participants, aged between 18 and 30 years, using the gel 12 hours before intercourse and within 12 hours after intercourse.

The results of the study are expected to be released by the end of 2013. It is being funded by the department of science and technology, the US government and various other organisations, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The Facts study aims to confirm the findings of the Caprisa 004 study which involved a smaller sample of women at only two locations.

The Caprisa (Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa) study began in May 2007, was completed in December 2009, and the data collected from the study was published in March 2010.

R129 million for study

US ambassador to South Africa, Donald Gips, announced that his government would contribute R129 million over the next three years toward the study, while Science and Technology Deputy Minister Derek Hanekom said his department would be contributing R70 million to the study. These were the two largest contributors but several other organisations were also funding the project.

Hanekom said that because South Africa had the highest infection rate, it also needed to be at the forefront of research to prevent the spread of the disease.

Rees said that women who were pregnant would not be participating in the trial, but that it was an area that needed to be researched because they were at an increased risk of contracting the disease.

"Most pregnant women do not think of using a condom," she said. (Sapa, May 2011)

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