December 16, 2010
On Tuesday, the director of the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief said new methods to slow the spread of HIV may have a place in the program's arsenal. Eric Goosby said PEPFAR is closely monitoring the progress of pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and microbicide gels.
PrEP involves giving AIDS drugs to uninfected people at high risk for HIV. Last month, new research showed that giving the HIV drugs emtricitabine plus tenofovir to men who have sex with men markedly reduced their risk of contracting HIV.
PEPFAR provides South Africa with approximately $560 million annually. The program recently signed a new five-year deal to help South Africa, which has the world's highest HIV/AIDS caseload. Under the commitment, the United States will help the country identify its HIV/AIDS-fighting priorities and improve its health care infrastructure, said Goosby.
South Africa has proposed using PrEP to treat uninfected inmates, as the country's prisons are major HIV vectors, said Goosby.
"We would support PrEP in terms of high-risk populations," Goosby said, noting that various country approval plans are already under internal consideration.
Microbicide gels, which would be used to protect women from HIV during sex, also could play a part pending additional research and regulatory approval, said Goosby. Results from a South African trial of tenofovir in a gel formula showed it lowered female participants' HIV infection rate by 30 percent.
"We haven't worked out the delivery system or the dosing or interval of application," Goosby noted. "We are absolutely positioned to engage in it as soon as we know those."