Fight against AIDS

Daily HIV drug regimen found effective in African women

A mother gets antiretroviral (ARV) drugs at a hospital in South Africa. ALEXANDER JOE/AFP/GettyImages

A three-nation clinical trial called Adapt found that taking an antiretroviral drug daily protected 76 percent of African women from HIV infection, even if they were having regular unsafe sex. Several young women based in Cape Town, South Africa, showed that they were willing and able to take the necessary pills every day. Previously, prevention studies in African women failed because of fear of stigma, lack of partner support, or throwing away of pills. While treating all 37 million HIV-infected people around the world is what AIDS experts aspire to do, the $8 billion price-tag that UNaids (the United Nations’ AIDS-fighting agency) advocates for to end the epidemic is difficult to reach. Attempts to pay study participants to engage in less risky behaviors is also proving to be a monetary and ethical challenge, as donors are not comfortable with “paying the poor to help themselves.” Other studies have suggested that girls who stay and do well in school are least likely to be infected, however lead investigator Quarraisha Abdool Karim isn’t sure if that is the only factor. Challenges exist in richer countries, as well: People who have access to sophisticated medical care with lower CD4 counts — a measure of deterioration of the immune system — are less likely to seek treatment, which can harm themselves and their sexual partners. These challenges prove difficult, but the researchers who discussed the above results at a conference in Vancouver seem more dedicated than ever to achieve an HIV-free world.

Read more at The New York Times.

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