A meeting that began last week in Seattle between AIDS activists and drug researchers regarding conflicts over clinical trials of the anti-HIV drug Viread reached no tangible resolutions, The Wall Street Journal reports. Scientists are testing Viread in the United States and in several developing nations to determine if daily use of the drug can prevent HIV infections among high-risk populations. AIDS activists say that researchers and drugmaker Gilead Sciences should provide a free lifetime supply of antiretroviral medications to any study subjects who become infected during the trials. Activists also want injection drug users involved in a study in Thailand to be given free needles and supplies to clean their drug injection paraphernalia.
Researchers say that offering lifelong treatment violates standard clinical trial practices that forbid researchers to offer undue incentives to join the studies. And because the Thailand study is funded by U.S. money, offering needles to participants would violate a congressional ban on needle distribution.
Protests by members of the Paris chapter of ACT UP and other AIDS organizations led to the cancellation of a Viread study in Cambodia and the postponement of another in Cameroon. Trials are continuing, however, in the United States, Thailand, Malawi, and Ghana.
The Seattle meeting, sponsored by the International AIDS Society, was attended by key members of the National Institutes of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation--all of which are funding the studies--and by numerous AIDS activists and patient advocates. All of the attendees agreed that study participants should be given better HIV prevention counseling and supplies of male and female condoms. But no consensus was reached on whether to provide anti-HIV drugs to those infected during the clinical trials.