HONG KONG — A top AIDS research team may try to recruit about 1,000 at-risk men from Hong Kong and the mainland for clinical trials of an injection to prevent HIV infection, the South China Morning Post reports. If it goes ahead as planned next year, the project by the Aaron Diamond AIDS Research Center in New York will be the first HIV-prevention clinical trial in China.
The plan comes after the team, led by celebrated Taiwanese-American researcher Dr. David Ho, used an antiretroviral drug dubbed GSK744 to protect laboratory monkeys from HIV for weeks.
Clinical trials on men and women were scheduled to start in the U.S. this week, the Post reports. For the mainland-Hong Kong trial, the team will seek men engaged in high-risk same-sex activity. But Professor Martin Markowitz, clinical director of the center, an affiliate of Rockefeller University, said stigma surrounding gay men in China might pose a challenge, the South China Morning Post article said.
Markowitz is “cautiously optimistic” the drug could be developed into an injection to protect humans from HIV for three months with one shot, the Post article said.
The effectiveness of oral pills already available for HIV prevention varied in different studies, mainly because people did not always take the drug daily as required for protection, he said.
They are aiming at the highest-risk group — men engaging in unprotected receptive anal intercourse with an untreated HIV-positive partner.
China’s HIV infection rate was 0.058 per cent in 2011, but among men engaging in same-sex behaviour it was 6.3 per cent, according to the Ministry of Health.
In Hong Kong, 559 new cases of HIV infection were reported last year, the Post reports.