Gates Foundation Grants $28M to Collaborative Effort To Test Latex Diaphragm as HIV, STD Prevention Method
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation has granted $28 million to a Southern African AIDS initiative to test the effectiveness of latex diaphragms in preventing the transmission of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases, South Africa's Sunday Times reports. The initiative is a joint effort by the South African Medical Research Council, the University of California-San Francisco, the University of Zimbabwe and the U.S.-based company Ibis Reproductive Health. According to Gita Ramjee, head of the MRC's HIV/AIDS Prevention Research Unit, the diaphragms will be tested at two sites in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal province and one site in Harare, Zimbabwe, with other sites to be added in the future, the Times reports. The study, which will take four years to complete, will begin in September and will enroll about 4,500 women from the region who will learn how to insert the diaphragm and will undergo HIV and other STD testing every three months. Ramjee said that women in Zimbabwe who participated in a trial to test the acceptability of the diaphragm as a contraceptive were enthusiastic about the device, but she added that it had not yet been tested as an HIV prevention method, according to the Times. "Current research suggests that the port of entry for HIV is through the woman's cervix. We feel that if we cover the cervix with the diaphragm, then perhaps we can reduce the risk of women acquiring HIV," Ramjee said, adding, "If the product shows effectiveness, we hope that it can be marketed at a reduced cost or offered absolutely free of charge" (Fredericks, Sunday Times, 5/4).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.