August 30, 2011
Weeks after the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that there has been relatively no change in the number of persons infected with HIV each year -- and a dramatic increase among young Black gay men -- leading AIDS organizations are calling on the federal government to speed up real-world research on pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP.
On August 16th, at the National HIV Prevention Conference in Atlanta, Georgia, a coalition of concerned AIDS organizations issued a Call to Action to the federal government to address the shortage of funding and sluggish coordination of further research on PrEP.
PrEP is a promising new prevention method in which HIV-negative people take anti-HIV medications to reduce their risk of becoming infected with HIV. PrEP has been shown in clinical trials to reduce the risk of acquiring HIV by as much as 90 percent in some cases. However, it's unknown if and how results apply outside of clinical trials. In the Call to Action, advocates demand that the US Department of Health and Human Services move quickly to initiate a range of demonstration projects to explore how well PrEP might help people reduce their risk of acquiring HIV in the real world. The Call to Action was accompanied by a detailed report on what the key issues to be addressed by the demonstration projects ought to be. The report urges researchers to prioritize Black and Latino gay and bisexual men, as they are the groups most impacted by HIV/AIDS.
"For Black Gay men, we are clearly losing the battle against HIV. We need to bring to bear every possible tool in curbing the devastation in our communities. We need to know how effective PrEP can be for Black men, and women, and we need to know now," said Phill Wilson, President and CEO of the Black AIDS Institute. "PrEP won't be the ultimate solution to AIDS in Black America. But our house is on fire, and we need all the help we can get."
The Call to Action was issued by Project Inform, along with the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, amfAR: the Foundation for AIDS Research, AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, the Black AIDS Institute, the International Rectal Microbicide Advocates, the National Minority AIDS Council and the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. The Call to Action and its accompanying report, "PrEP: Roadmap to the Real World," can be viewed and downloaded on the website of AVAC: Global Advocacy for HIV Prevention, www.avac.org.
Charlie Baran is Director of Programs for the Black AIDS Institute.