Media Outlets Highlight Studies Presented at International Microbicides Conference

A study in Africa, presented Sunday at the International Microbicides Conference (M2010) in Pittsburgh, has shown that a man’s risk of HIV infection doubles if his HIV-positive partner is pregnant, according to HealthDay News/U.S. News & World Report.

“The two-year study – launched in Botswana, Kenya, Rwanda, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia – focused on more than 3,300 couples in which one of the partners was HIV-positive,” the news service writes. “During the duration of the study, 823 pregnancies occurred. The study authors found that pregnancy increased HIV transmission in both directions: male-to-female and female-to-male” (5/23).

Though “the observed infection risk for women appeared to be a function of several factors beyond pregnancy itself, including sexual behavior,” the researchers noted “[f]or men, the link between pregnancy and risk increase was much stronger and more direct,” according to a press release (.pdf) from M2010 (5/23).

The Independent writes the “study concluded ‘pregnancy was associated with increased risk of both female-to-male and male-to-female HIV transmission’ and ‘…the link between pregnancy and HIV risk was much clearer (in men), even after considering whether or not they had engaged in unprotected sex or were circumcised. Measures of viral load and CD4 counts of the infected partner also had no bearing.'”  

Nelly Mugo of the University of Nairobi/Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH) and University of Washington, who lead the study and presented it on behalf of the Partners in Prevention HSV/HIV Transmission Study said that “pregnant female-to-male transmission is something that needs greater attention as ‘biological changes that occur during pregnancy may make women more infectious than they would be otherwise,'” the newspaper writes (5/23).

In other news, a study examining the safety of microbicidal gel use during pregnancy was also presented Sunday at the conference, the BBC reports (5/23).

“Results of the first study of a vaginal microbicide tested in pregnant women found only small amounts of drug are absorbed into the bloodstream, amniotic fluid and umbilical cord blood,” according to the M2010 press release. “The study, which involved applying a single dose of tenofovir gel hours before women gave birth by cesarean delivery, was conducted as a first step toward determining if use of a vaginal microbicide during pregnancy is safe for women and their babies” (5/23).

The Standard reports on the participation of Zimbabwean researchers at M2010, and highlights how a collaboration between the University of Zimbabwe and the University of California, San Francisco, backed by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, is studying ways to improve methods to prevent the spread of HIV to women (5/22).

Also reporting on M2010, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review examines the recent studies of microbicides as a method to drive down the spread of HIV. “Despite setbacks with the first generation of microbicides, newer versions contain the same antiretroviral drugs used to treat HIV. Results of a small study in South Africa, involving 1,000 women, will be released this summer,” the newspaper writes. The Microbicide Trials Network, which is hosting M2010, “last year began a large-scale clinical trial to test microbicides that contain antiretroviral drugs. The trial is expected to enroll 5,000 women in Uganda, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe,” the newspaper adds.

The article includes comments from Ian McGowan, a leading investigator at Microbicide Trials Network, and Jim Pickett, director of advocacy for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago, who will speak at the conference (Fabregas, 5/21).

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