Michael Lucas on Reviving AIDS Art
BY Michael Lucas
November 04 2010 4:00 PM ET
Clearly, researchers are developing vaginal microbicides to stem the international AIDS epidemic, which affects many more millions in Africa than in the U.S. The microbicides in development are not effective enough to replace condoms as the most viable preventive measure and are currently only being tested for use in developing countries. One could argue that the American news media coverage only reflects these realities.
However, in considering advancements in international HIV prevention, it may be possible to see how national policy will be formulated as well. An October 25 announcement from the Food and Drug Administration and the CONRAD research institute declared that a vaginal microbicide will be fast-tracked for approval for use as a preventive tool against HIV. As American-led international bodies begin planning to manufacture and distribute vaginal microbicides, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has yet to finish trials to determine the treatment’s potential efficacy for gay men. The only study that the CDC has completed involving gay men and rectally administered microbicides determined that long-term use of the treatment does not seem to cause any physical harm. The study concluded nothing regarding the effectiveness of the treatment in preventing HIV in gay men.
The efficacy of rectal microbicides will not be known until the completion of the study. Regardless, microbicides seem to be the most important recent advancement in fighting HIV infection. The fact that FDA approval has already been announced for heterosexual use, but no report has yet to be released regarding potential efficacy in men who have sex with men, is reason for concern. This process demonstrates that new HIV treatments are being developed for heterosexuals first and have not been simultaneously tested in gay men.