Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or PrEP

Pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) involves putting HIV negative people on antiretroviral drugs (ARV) with the aim of protecting them from HIV infection. This blog looks at some of the pros and cons of PrEP.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Drop Everything, A Vaginal Gel Has Been Developed

Chi Mgbako writes an article entitled "International donors must fund female-controlled HIV prevention gel", but this raises a number of issues.

Is a vaginal gel, as Mgbako and others argue, female controlled? One would think that if it is, so are oral contraceptives. Yet, the majority of women in many developing countries opt for injectible contraceptives. They say their husbands object to them taking contraceptives, so they get an injection every three months, possibly running the risk of picking up some blood-borne infection at the clinic, perhaps even HIV. Will the same husbands that object to oral contraceptives ignore vaginal gels? Has this even been tested?

Also, this article mentions a number of things that are in need of change, such as domestic violence and gender inequality. These are in need of change regardless of HIV transmission. Is the author advocating that these and other social problems be ignored as long as vaginal gel is paid for by international donors and some (rather small) percentage of HIV infections are possible prevented?

I don't think the author is making the argument that these other social problems are insignificant or that HIV reduction should be chosen over other social problems. Rather, it needs to be made clear that that is something international donors do.

Numerous social problems have been alluded to as causing HIV transmission, allowing HIV transmission, assisting HIV transmission, etc. But most of these problems are independent of HIV, they existed before HIV and they won't just go away on their own.

But HIV programs have a tendency to ignore contexts to the extent that HIV testing clinics are set up in areas where people are dying of contaminated water related diseases, respiratory infections, intestinal parasites and other treatable and preventable conditions. HIV programs are, no matter how much those in the HIV industry would like to argue otherwise, deflecting attention from real and preventable problems.

And to what end? That we might be able to reduce HIV transmission by 39% (in ideal, trial related scenarios)?

Finally, if the gel is so good, why have funders not come up with the funding? Is there something they know that we are not allowed to know? Other HIV related drugs have made billions, why are international funders drawing back from this one?


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