Trials of Tenofovir for HIV Prevention Should ‘Proceed With Caution,’ Opinion Piece Says
The "HIV epidemic's severity demands we move forward with studies" of the antiretroviral drug tenofovir for HIV prevention, but human clinical trials need to "proceed with caution," Thomas Coates, a professor of infectious diseases at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, writes in a UPI/Washington Times opinion piece. Tenofovir, a once-daily pill, has been proven to be safe and effective in treating HIV-positive people, and it can delay or block HIV infection in monkeys, "but we do not know if the same is true for HIV-negative people," according to Coates. Therefore, individuals who are part of "some of the world's highest-risk populations," such as sexually active young adults in Botswana and gay men in San Francisco and Atlanta, are participating in placebo-controlled clinical trials, Coates says. Criticism from some HIV/AIDS advocates over the design of the trials is "understandable," Coates writes. However, "using a placebo for comparison is the only way we can ascertain whether this potential prevention strategy will be safe and effective," he says. Researchers "are well on the way to ensuring tenofovir trials adhere to the highest ethical standards," Coates says, adding that the "biggest challenge" will come if tenofovir "reduces, but does not eliminate," HIV risk. "Our challenge is to ensure fear does not paralyze our efforts, but instead spurs us on to ultimate success," Coates says, concluding, "Millions of lives depend on it" (Coates, UPI/Washington Times, 5/6).This is part of the KHN Morning Briefing, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.