Gates Foundation Grants $30M to University of Washington To Study Link Between Herpes Treatment, HIV Transmission
The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation on Wednesday announced that it will grant $30 million to the University of Washington School of Medicine to study whether the treatment of herpes simplex virus type 2, also known as genital herpes, helps to reduce the risk of HIV transmission, the AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7/24). The study will be the first to examine whether treating HSV-2 with acyclovir -- a drug commonly prescribed to reduce the severity of herpes outbreaks and prevent the development of new blisters -- could reduce the spread of HIV (Gates Foundation release, 7/24). Anna Wald, a University of Washington associate professor who is working on the study, said, "We know that when people have genital herpes and are HIV-infected, we can find HIV in the herpes lesions. They are infectious for HIV if they are having sex because they are shedding HIV from the genital herpes lesions" (Bickerstaff, Seattle Times, 7/25). Health officials are concerned with the increasing number of people with HSV-2, because the virus, which often manifests itself with open sores in the genital area, is thought to at least double a person's chance of acquiring HIV through unprotected sex (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 9/17/02). Some researchers believe that treating HSV-2 could cut in half HIV transmission and help prevent HIV in developing countries, the AP/Post-Intelligencer reports. The 12-month study, which will examine 3,600 monogamous couples in which one or both partners is infected with HIV and HSV-2, is scheduled to begin in 2004 in Africa, India and Latin America. Volunteers who test positive for both diseases will receive two doses of either acyclovir or a placebo each day, the AP/Post-Intelligencer reports. Helene Gayle, the foundation's director of HIV, tuberculosis and reproductive health issues, said, "This study could expand the range of tools available to help reduce HIV transmission as we continue to search for longer-term solutions to the epidemic, such as HIV vaccines and microbicides" (AP/Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 7/24).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.