News Outlets Examine ART, Microbicide Development Research Presented At Conference

News outlets continue to report on the science discussed at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI), which ended Friday in San Francisco. 

“Studies are underway testing whether periodic use of the drugs, either as pills or as vaginal or rectal gels, can prevent transmission of HIV in high-risk sexual encounters. At the same time, it’s becoming clear that the incidence of HIV infection declines over time in places where most infected people know their status and are on treatment – and thus are less likely to pass the virus to others,” the Washington Post writes. “Description of these effects at a big AIDS conference here is likely to spur a further swing of the treatment pendulum toward early and widespread treatment of HIV infection.”

The article examines how scientists’ understanding of combination antiretroviral therapy (ART) as a measure to treat patients living with HIV/AIDS has evolved over the past 15 years. “There are already indirect hints that AIDS medicines can be prevention tools just like condoms and abstinence,” the newspaper writes. “Such a strategy would require a huge step-up in treatment” from the WHO’s current recommendation to start ART when HIV-positive patients’ “CD4-cell count – a gauge of the immune system’s health – falls below 350. Now, only 30 percent of HIV-infected people in that range are getting the drugs.”

The article adds details on several studies presented at CROI, including one examining ART in discordant couples, and a trial in monkeys of a “microbicide containing maraviroc, an HIV ‘entry inhibitor,'” that helped prevent the spread of HIV (Brown, 2/20).

Also reporting on the microbicide containing the antiretroviral maraviroc, Reuters writes, “[t]ests in monkeys showed it would protect a female from sexual transmission for about four hours,” Reuters reports. “You couldn’t apply these gels in the morning and have protection in the evening,” said John Moore, of Weill Cornell Medical College, who helped lead the study. “A vaginal ring with a time-release formula may work better for longer-term protection, Moore said,” the news service writes (Fox, 2/20).

Also at CROI, researchers presented data showing HIV-positive patients in Africa are starting ART “too late for it to be effective,” PlusNews/IRIN reports. As presented during the conference, “Studies from South Africa, Uganda and Zimbabwe … all found late enrollment of patients on life-prolonging antiretroviral treatment (ART) to be a significant barrier to treatment programmes,” the news service writes.

The article breaks down the results of the trials and includes the recommendations by the researchers about how to improve patient survival through the use of ART (2/19).

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