Wednesday, August 11, 2010
A conference exploring ways families and communities can help battle H-I-V is bring some nationally-recognized researchers to San Diego today. Local providers will also talk about what's being done to get family members more involved in HIV prevention and care. Joining us on Morning Edition is KPBS Health Reporter Kenny Goldberg.
A conference exploring ways families and communities can help battle HIV is bringing some nationally-recognized researchers to San Diego today. Local providers will also talk about what's being done to get family members more involved in HIV prevention and care. Joining us on Morning Edition is KPBS Health Reporter Kenny Goldberg.
DWANE BROWN: Kenny, let's start by talking about the spread of HIV here in San Diego.
KENNY GOLDBERG (KPBS Health Reporter): Well, since the epidemic began more than 25 years ago, about 18,000 San Diegans have been infected by AIDS or HIV. The groups that are at highest risk in spreading the disease, locally as well as nationally, are men who have sex with other men and IV drug users.
BROWN: Have we seen a change in terms of the numbers or the trend?
GOLDBERG: Well, we're seeing that African-Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV, locally as they are nationally, and that's one of the concerns, and one of the topics that will be brought up in this conference today.
BROWN: Now you recently attended an international AIDS conference, tell us more about this company in the Bay Area testing a vaginal gel to actually cut the risk of AIDS?
GOLDBERG: The company's called Gilead. It makes some of the biggest selling anti-retroviral drugs, the drugs that people take when they have HIV to control the disease, and they've donated their drugs to a number of clinical trials. The one that was announced at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna was a trial of a vaginal gel that used this anti-retroviral, anti-HIV drug produced by Gilead in the Bay Area, and it was extremely effective. Women that used the gel as opposed to a placebo had a 39 percent lower rate of HIV infection. So in other words, after the trial was over, for every 10 women that would have been infected with HIV, four infections were prevented.
BROWN: It was also effective for herpes, correct?
GOLDBERG: That's exactly right. That was something they weren't expecting. It was even more effective against genital herpes, and the reason that's important is because people that have an active case of genital herpes are much more susceptible to getting HIV.
BROWN: Why is the company doing it now? Why are they providing this to third world countries?
GOLDBERG: Well, the countries where most of these HIV trials are going on are the countries hardest hit by the disease, in sub-Saharan Africa in particular. In Swaziland and South Africam, and Uganda. And Gilead, the Bay Area company, has donated the drugs for these trials, as a matter of fact, they foreswore their commercial license for this vaginal gel that was just tested. So that means that in these developing countries, if the gel does get approved by regulators, and it becomes a product, Gilead won't be making any profits off of it.
BROWN: So who else stands to benefit outside of these third world countries?
GOLDBERG: Well, we all do. I mean, if they devise a vaginal that women can use to prevent HIV infection, women all over the world can use it, including in the United States.
BROWN: Well, let's talk aobut the bigger picture. Where do we go from here, Kenny, in the fight to end the spread of HIV.
GOLDBERG: Well, there's a number of clinical trials going on now that I think will provide some real insight into where we go from here. One of the trials is called iPrEx. It's a trial of about 3,000 men who have sex with other men, in six different countries, including the U.S. And they're taking an oral anti-HIV drug developed by Gilead, and this trial is completed, and they're going to be announcing the results before the end of the year. We'll see if an anti-HIV drug can prevent men who have sex with other men from getting infected with HIV. Another trial is going on in sub-Saharan Africa, that's testing this vaginal gel that we spoke of, and testing two different oral HIV drugs, to see, if taken once a day, the pills versus the gel versus placebos, can prevent women from becoming infected with HIV.
BROWN: KPBS health reporter Kenny Goldberg. The role of families in preventing and adapting to HIV/AIDS conference begins at 8:30 this morning at the San Diego Convention Center.