HIV Clinical Trial Aiming To Increase Participation of Black Men Who Have Sex With Men
Organizers of a federally funded clinical trial in Atlanta that seeks to determine whether a drug can safely prevent HIV transmission are focusing on increasing the participation among black men who have sex with men, Reuters/Washington Post reports (Bigg, Reuters/Washington Post, 1/9). CDC granted $3.5 million to fund trials in San Francisco and Atlanta to test FDA-approved Viread, which also is known as tenofovir and has been shown to boost immune response and lower viral levels in the bloodstreams of people with HIV who are resistant to other antiretrovirals. The trials are designed to determine if Viread is safe to use for HIV prevention among MSM and if using the drug would result in an increase in unsafe-sex practices and higher HIV incidence. If any of the participants contract HIV while taking Viread, researchers can determine whether the strain they contract is resistant to the drug. In each city, researchers plan to enroll 200 MSM in the double-blind study. Participants will be assigned to take Viread or a placebo every day for two years. The Atlanta trial began in February 2005 at the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 3/18/2005). Trial participants complete a questionnaire about their sexual activity and receive risk-reduction counseling and condoms during each visit. About 43% of the participants in the Atlanta trial are black, according to Reuters/Post. HIV/AIDS research in the U.S. primarily has focused on white MSM in part because HIV was first identified in that group and the group developed an effective lobbying initiative. Blacks accounted for 50% of new HIV diagnoses in 2003 and made up 12.8% of the U.S. population, according to CDC and U.S. Census Bureau data. In Georgia, 78% of people diagnosed with AIDS in 2005 were black and 81% of those diagnosed with HIV in the same year were black, according to Melanie Thompson, the Atlanta trial's lead investigator. Many blacks are reluctant to enroll in clinical trials because of fear and misunderstanding, Thompson said. She added, "While the study is open to men of any race, we are working hard to enroll as many men of color as possible" because black men "are disproportionately affected by HIV and underrepresented in clinical trials." Researchers also have said that a "lack of organization within the gay black community [has] made it harder to promote awareness and mobilize against AIDS," Reuters/Post reports. In addition, the stigma of being gay in the black community has "left some gay men vulnerable to a degree of social isolation that made poor choices on safe sex easier," according to Reuters/Post (Reuters/Washington Post, 1/9).