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Cameroon officials suspend Viread clinical trial

Cameroon officials suspend Viread clinical trial

Health officials in Cameroon have suspended a clinical trial to evaluate the effectiveness of the anti-HIV drug Viread due to "failings" in the way the trial was implemented, Agence France-Presse reports. The clinical trial, which involved sex workers at high risk for HIV infection, aimed to determine if daily use of the anti-HIV drug could lower infection risks. Some AIDS advocates had argued that the trial was putting sex workers who received a placebo instead of the antiretroviral medication at an increased risk for HIV infection, and the advocates said that the scientists running the trial were not adequately educating the participants on how to protect themselves against the virus through safer sex. The activists also argued that the women participating in the clinical trial were unable to give informed consent to participate because most of them didn't understand the forms they were required to sign. Cameroon health minister Urbain Awono said the trial was suspended for "failings in their implementation. The suspension will remain until the promoter of the trial shows proof that the commitments made in their agreement are rigorously respected and all conditions of their effective implementation are satisfactory." The decision to halt the trial, which is sponsored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, followed a report by an audit commission of doctors sent to Douala, Cameroon, last week to study how the clinical trial was being carried out. Last summer health officials in Cambodia expressed concerns about a similar Viread clinical trial in that country that included 1,000 sex workers at high risk for HIV infection. Activists said the women recruited for the study were being exploited, were not given proper HIV prevention counseling, and that medical treatment to address the side effects of the drug were not guaranteed for the participants. Prime minister Hun Sen publicly opposed the trial, saying, "Please, don't use Cambodians for [any drug] trial. If a trial is needed, please do it on animals, and don't use Cambodians." Hun Sen officially called a halt to the clinical trial in August. The Gates Foundation has awarded $6.5 million to conduct clinical trials of Viread as a pre-exposure prophylaxis among 2,000 HIV-negative people in Cambodia, Ghana, Cameroon, Nigeria, and Malawi. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has awarded $3.5 million to test the drug as a way to prevent HIV infections among high-risk groups, including sexually active gay men, in San Francisco and Atlanta.

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