25 November 2010

Condoms still key to preventing HIV

NGOs appeal to MSM and gay men to continue using condoms and water-based lube and to reduce their number of sexual partners, despite new research findings.


The Anova Health Institute and Health4Men join with researchers and activists around the world in welcoming the recent research findings about HIV prevention in gay and bisexual men. The iPrEx results, published by the New England Journal of Medicine, have been welcomed as a constructive first step towards using antiretroviral treatment as part of prevention and have been cautiously lauded by US President Barack Obama.

According to the US-based funders, the National Institutes of Health, the study finds that a daily dose of an oral antiretroviral drug taken by HIV-negative gay and other men who have sex with men (MSM) reduced the risk of acquiring HIV infection by 43.8%. "While we are encouraged by these findings, we appeal to MSM and gay men to continue using condoms and water-based lube and to reduce their number of sexual partners. It would be premature for MSM to attempt to use antiretroviral medications (ARVs) as prevention against HIV infection," said Glenn de Swardt of Health4Men, emphasising that considerably more research is needed before such drugs can be used as a viable biomedical prevention strategy. "We urge men to continue enjoying responsible sex."

ARVs for prevention

The current study explored the use of ARV medication to prevent HIV infection, referred to as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PREP). Health4Men continues to supply free post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) to MSM following high-risk exposure to the HI virus. Significantly, PEP must be initiated within 72 hours of the exposure.

Anova and Health4Men, funded by USAID/PEPFAR, are privileged to have supported the research team in Cape Town. "We congratulate Professor Linda-Gail Bekker, her team and the men who participated in this significant study. We look forward to further collaboration in future," said de Swardt.

MSM are at an increased risk of contracting HIV but remain under-resourced especially in Africa, due to homoprejudice and stigma. Preliminary results of a survey being conducted among MSM in township areas in Cape Town by Health4Men indicate that approximately one in three men in this group are HIV positive.

Media release from Anova Health Institute and Health4Men.


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Dr Sindisiwe van Zyl qualified at the University of Pretoria in 2005. She is a patients' rights activist and loves using social media to teach about HIV. She is in private practice in Johannesburg.

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