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Prevention Matters

Spring 1998


Trinidadian Health Minister Hamza Rafeeq has called for an expansion of condom retailing sites and has asked the local Pharmaceutical Board for its support in selling the prophylactics at places besides authorized licensed pharmacies.

The measure has resulted in controversy since 70 percent of the population is Roman Catholic. Supporters claim that the plan would allow the country to catch up with other local regions in HIV prevention and reduce the climbing AIDS rate.

However, opponents, including the Catholic Club Pro Vita, say that encouraging the public "to place their confidence in condoms in order to ensure safe sex is naive at best and at worst, grossly irresponsible." Earl Thorne, health educator with the National AIDS Program, argues that condoms are not prescription drugs and should not be regulated like them, adding, "We need more responsible behavior among men and women, particularly men because women often lack the ... economic power to make these decisions."



More than 270 people across the globe have volunteered to participate in the first human clinical trials of alive-attenuated HIV vaccine; nearly 150 are doctors who hope their support will encourage the approval of a trial. In fact, the International Association of Physicians in AIDS Care last summer announced plans to work toward a phase I trial by the turn of the century.

The group plans to submit a provisional protocol for the trial to the Food and Drug Administration this month. Says Charles Farthing, chair of the IAPAC's live-attenuated vaccine subcommittee: "Physicians need to respond to the moral imperative of doing everything possible to bring low-cost, effective HIV vaccines to the market.

Before human clinical trials can proceed, there are several issues that must first be addressed, including how to produce a vaccine and the long-term safety of a vaccine. These concerns have been the primary reason the National Institutes of Health has not opted to enter human clinical trials with a live-attenuated vaccine. But, says Farthing, moving into human trials could decrease the timetable for an effective vaccine by nearly 5 years.

Vaginal DNA Vaccines Effective Against STDS

According to a study led by Dr. Julie Livingston of Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, intra-vaginal administration of DNA-based vaccines may eventually be an effective method of long-term immunization against sexually transmitted diseases. The researchers, who report their findings in the current issue of Infection and Immunity, concluded that "vaginal immunization is an effective regimen to induce immunity at this (body) site." The team studied the efficacy of oral and intra-vaginal DNA-based vaccines on female rats and noted that, while both methods succeeded in immunization, the intra-vaginal method produced longer-lasting results. The research suggests that "DNA vaccines administered ... to the female genital tract may represent a method to stimulate a local immune response" to illnesses of the reproductive system.

2 newborns are counted in aids case

Two HIV-positive women infected by Nushawn Williams in Chautauqua County, New York, have given birth to HIV-positive babies, bringing the number of people infected by Williams up to 16. Williams is said to have infected 13 women and girls in the county. Health officials note that at least 10 of Williams' partners in New York City have also tested HIV positive, but they say it may never be known whether he was the source of their infection.

The officials say they have concluded that Williams directly infected the 13 women in upstate New York because, out of all the sexual partners the women had at the time, Williams is the only one who has tested HIV positive. Ten of those women were exposed to the virus after Williams learned he was infected in September of 1996. Chautauqua District Attorney James Subjack plans to prosecute for assault in those instances, setting a legal precedence in New York.

New York legislators have cited the Williams case in calling for mandatory name reporting for HIV patients and suggesting legal measures that make it a felony for an HIV-infected individual to fail to warn a sexual partner.

Long Wait for Partners of Man With AIDS

A 33-year-old man just out of prison may have infected up to 10 women and girls in Michigan with HIV. Health officials also note that 60 men, women, and teenagers who had sexual contact with James Jones or his partners have thus far tested HIV-negative.

Testing will continue for several more months, however, because infection does not always show up immediately. Jones -- who was released from prison last summer after serving four years for a sex offense -- has pleaded guilty to one count each of third-degree criminal sexual conduct, failing to inform a sex partner he is HIV-positive, and being an habitual sex offender.

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This article was provided by Women Alive. It is a part of the publication Women Alive Newsletter.