Cambodian Sex Workers Protest at XV IAC Session, Say Gilead Sciences' Viread Clinical Trials Unethical
July 15, 2004
A group of about 30 Cambodian commercial sex workers on Tuesday interrupted a session at the XV International AIDS Conference on antiretroviral drugs to protest a planned clinical trial using Gilead Sciences' Viread, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. About 30 demonstrators took over the stage for 15 minutes during the Gilead-sponsored session, shouting that the company "uses sex workers for free." Gilead is planning to evaluate whether Viread -- which is known generically as tenofovir and is FDA-approved for use as a treatment for HIV infection -- is effective at reducing the risk of HIV infection. The sex workers demanded that Gilead stop the trial or provide lifetime health care for any study participants who become HIV-positive, according to the Chronicle. Dr. James Rooney, Gilead vice president for clinical affairs, said that the study, which involves the use of a placebo, meets the strict ethical guidelines applied to all vaccine trials, the Chronicle reports. For example, all of the women participating in the trial will be counseled about and supplied with condoms. However, critics of the study said that such counseling is only cursory. The sex workers said that in order for the study to be useful, some of the participants will have to become HIV-positive, making them "pawns in a corporate drug development scheme," according to the Chronicle (Russell, San Francisco Chronicle, 7/14).
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