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Promote use of drugs to prevent AIDS infection, researchers urge

CHAPEL HILL -- A truly colossal health problem, acquired immune deficiency syndrome will not go away -- at least no time soon.

The virus that leads to AIDS, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, caused an odd illness that was a complete medical mystery only about 25 years ago. Now, HIV infects more than 40 million people around the globe, and each day, some 14,000 more people pick up that infection, studies have shown.

While scientists continue to try to develop more effective drug treatments and possibly vaccines one day, and health educators counsel people to avoid risky behavior, still more weapons are needed to fight the stubborn scourge, they say.

Writing in today's (Sept. 30) issue of the journal Science, an international team of researchers, clinicians and others explains that a promising, relatively new approach is for people not infected but at high risk to take drugs that might prevent them from contracting HIV. But debate over the particulars of the strategy has slowed progress.

"Even as available and proven prevention interventions are used, the HIV pandemic will not be stopped solely by talking to those at risk," they wrote. "Clinical trials of daily oral antiretroviral dosing as pre-exposure prophylaxis, or 'PrEP,' have been initiated in Africa, Asia and the United States and are planned in Latin America. Unfortunately, these trials have become controversial."

Authors of the commentary include Dr. Robert M. Grant, associate investigator at the Gladstone Institute of Virology and Immunology and associate professor of medicine at the University of California at San Francisco; Dr. Myron Cohen, professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill schools of medicine and public health; and 16 others from as far away as Peru and Ghana. Cohen also is chief of infectious diseases at UNC Hospitals.

"HIV PrEP research, as with all aspects of the fight against HIV/AIDS, is bui
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Contact: David Williamson
rdtokids@email.unc.edu
919-962-8596
University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
30-Sep-2005


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