THE use of ARVs in microbicides to prevent HIV, rectal microbicides, the risks of getting HIV during pregnancy and anal sex, and new formulations like films and vaginal rings are “hot topics” for M2010, according to the co-chairman Dr Ian McGowan.
Microbicides are substances that can be applied to the vagina or rectum to block HIV transmission at that site and prevent infection.
The M2010 MICROBICIDES: Building Bridges in HIV Prevention conference opens in Pittsburgh in the US tonight and will run until Tuesday night.
The first microbicides conference was held in 2000 and this is the 6th such conference, attracting more than 1000 delegates from 47 countries.
The results of the first microbicide using an ARV (tenofovir), which was tested in a human, clinical trial in South Africa, will be released in July.
The results of this trial are on the minds of all participants at this conference – what it will mean if it works and what questions it will raise if it does not – and what will be considered a good result.
So far only five out of 37 randomised clinical trials testing HIV prevention methods have shown some success – three of these on medical male circumcision – so high hopes rest on the efficacy of the tenofovir gel.
I am here, and will file one or two reports a day on this blog, and send stories to The Times, its online site, and the Sunday Times about the findings.
Time to go, the opening ceremony is starting.
The death of Deputy Health Minister Dr Molefi Sefularo is a tragic loss to those close to him, but also to South Africa.
Health Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi and Sefularo made a powerful team, committed to confronting the HIV epidemic in South Africa, and the fatal road accident that claimed Sefularo’s life yesterday is a setback to these efforts.
When I first heard Dr Sefularo talk about HIV in a political party debate on the eve of the last elections, he was clear, coherent and passionate about the key issues affecting HIV/AIDS from treatment and stigma, to prevention and community action.
He was by far the most impressive candidate and his contribution signaled clearly that the days of confusion and denialism under the former health minister Dr Manto Tshabalala-Msimang were over.
Next week under Dr Motsoaledi’s leadership, South Africa is launching its biggest HIV testing campaign ever, and the minister will miss the support of Dr Sefularo even more at this critical time.
He was a good man and I want to join many people in South Africa in sending condolences to Dr Sefularo’s loved ones.
A major new study on the HIV prevalence at universities and colleges has found that 3.4% of students were HIV positive – an HIV prevalence that is less than half of that of the general adult population (about 10%).
24 000 students and staff took part in the research, which revealed that the HIV rates were:
*1.5% among academic staff
* 4.4% administrative staff and
*12.2% among service staff
Despite the lower prevalence, students were practising risky sexual behaviour the research by the Higher Education HIV and AIDS Programme (HEAIDS) study found.
Nearly one in five men and one in 16 women had more than one sexual partner the month before they took part in the study.
This study showed – like many previous studies – that female students (4.7% HIV positive) were at much greater risk of infection than male students (1.5%).
Students with sexually transmitted diseases were at higher risk of HIV than others: 12.1% of women and 6.5% of men who had STDs were HIV positive.
Eastern Cape students had the highest rates of HIV at 6.4%, and Western Cape students the lowest at 1.1%.
Condom use was common, with 65% of male students using condoms, but students in relationships usually stopped using condoms use after three months.
Alcohol and binge drinking were associated with casual sex and with coercive sex.
Nearly half the teenagers admitted to two hospitals in Harare in Zimbabwe were infected with HIV and the virus was the most common cause of in-hospital death among them, a new study shows.
Adult opportunistic infections and chronic paediatric HIV/AIDS complications were the most common cause for their admission.
Many of them were likely to have a mother who was HIV-positive or who had died of AIDS but they had survived into older childhood.
Now they need “better recognition” and care, Rashida Ferrand and his co-authors stated.
Wits HIV expert, Professor Glenda Gray, supported this call, stating in the same journal: “There is an urgent need for services that will be able to provide accessible and appropriate HIV testing, counselling, and support, as well as facilitate access to ART and appropriate sexual risk-reduction interventions.
“The adolescents admitted to hospitals in Harare could have benefited from early diagnosis and concomitant initiation of ART, and this absence of treatment should not continue to be the plight of similar adolescents in our region.”
In South Africa as many as half a million children are estimated to have HIV.
Dr Marnie Vujovic, a clinical psychologist for Wits Paediatric HIV Clinics, said that sensitive and age-appropriate disclosure to adolescents born with HIV was critical to their physical, mental and social wellbeing – and to avoid them finding out by accident.
“Disclosure to children is the biggest issue in our caregiver support groups and a problem at all sites,” she said.
Scientists have succeeded in growing a crystal that reveals the structure of the enzyme, integrase, and this could improve the design of the integrase inhibiting drugs commonly used for AIDS treatment.
Integrase – an enzyme found in retroviruses like HIV – plays a key role in HIV infection.
“When HIV infects someone, it uses integrase to paste a copy of its genetic information into their DNA,” the researchers from Imperial College in London stated.
“Availability of the integrase structure means that researchers can begin to fully understand how existing drugs that inhibit integrase are working, how they might be improved, and how to stop HIV developing resistance to them.”
Many researchers had tried and failed for more than 20 years “to work out the three-dimensional structure of integrase bound to viral DNA”, prior to this study, they stated.
To grow a crystal of “sufficient quality to allow determination of the three-dimensional structure”, the scientists from Imperial College in London and Harvard University in Boston conducted more than 40 000 trials.
These results in seven kinds of crystals, only one of which was of high enough quality for their study.
Lead author Dr Peter Cherepanov said: “We went back to square one and started by looking for a better model of HIV integrase, which could be more amenable for crystallization.
“Despite initially painstakingly slow progress and very many failed attempts, we did not give up and our effort was finally rewarded.”
Their findings are published this week in the journal Nature.