A major discovery in the treatment of HIV and AIDS prevention was announced recently. Scientists have developed a drug that when given to test monkeys, prevents them from contracting AIDS. The experiments were conducted at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta and by Dr. David Ho, director of the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center at Rockefeller University. In the study first conducted by the CDC, monkeys were given a strong dosage of anti-retroviral drugs. These drugs are part of a protocol called a pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PreP. Scientists have found that administering small doses of anti-retroviral drugs can lead to a 9o percent HIV prevention rate among those who are in a relationship with an HIV-infected partner.
The experiment with the monkeys involved giving one group an experimental drug called GSK744, which is a long lasting anti-retroviral drug and another a placebo. The monkey’s vaginas and anuses were then washed with a solution of human and monkey HIV to simulate sexual intercourse. The monkeys who got GSK744 were infection free. The monkeys who did not get the drug contracted HIV. It is hoped that this experiment can be replicated with humans.
A human trial is expected to start later this year with 175 worldwide participants from the United States, Brazil, South Africa and Malawi. It is hoped that an injection of the drug every three months will protect a person from HIV and change the way the disease is being treated in third-world countries.
Oftentimes there is a stigma attached to taking HIV preventative medication for various reasons. One is the social shame that ensues when people assume a person has the disease because of the pills. Injections will be more affordable and allow a better level of privacy for these patients. A large-scale test of the drug is several years away.