Bill Gates Donates Millions to AIDS Research Project
May 6, 2003
The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has granted $28 million to a southern African AIDS initiative that will examine the effectiveness of latex diaphragms as a preventive measure for HIV/AIDS and other STDs.Adapted from:
The initiative is a joint effort by the South African Medical Research Council, the University of California-San Francisco, the University of Zimbabwe and U.S.-based Ibis Reproductive Health.
Gita Ramjee, head of the MRC's HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Unit, said trial sites would be set up in Umkomaas and KwaXimba in KwaZulu-Natal and Harare in Zimbabwe with an additional trial site still to be determined.
Ramjee said a study to assess the acceptability of the latex diaphragm had been done in Zimbabwe and women were found to be enthusiastic about the product. But Ramjee added that while studies have been done to test the latex diaphragm as a contraceptive, no studies have been done to test it as a prevention method for HIV/AIDS. "Current research suggests that the port of entry for HIV is through the woman's cervix. We feel that if we cover the cervix with a diaphragm, then perhaps we can reduce the risk of women acquiring HIV," she said.
Ramjee said women would initially be taught how to insert the diaphragm and would then return to the site every three months to be tested for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. The study, which will take four years to complete, will start in September and will involve 4,500 women from southern Africa, including 1,400 from KwaZulu-Natal. "If the product shows effectiveness, we hope that it can be marketed at a reduced cost or offered absolutely free of charge," Ramjee said.
Sunday Times (South Africa)
05.04.03; Ilse Fredericks