HPTN 052 Study Results Spur Debate

    Physician-scientists took a divided stand on the issue of whether to pour cash on anti-retroviral therapy at a debate hosted by the World Bank and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

    The debate started after the HIV Prevention Trials Network 052 study showed HIV-infected individuals who received immediate ART treatment were 96 percent less likely to transmit the virus to their uninfected partners.

    Sten Vermund argued that if only there were more funding, then there is no need for a debate as the efficacy of ART as prevention is “overwhelming.”

    But Myron Cohen, principal investigator of the HPTN 052 trial, said more research is needed to assess the effectivity of the ART as prevention. He said there is no assurance the prevention would benefit different key populations and that investigators are still reporting conflicting data.

    “It’s not ready for prime time,” he said.

    Stef Bertosi of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation sided with Cohen, saying that spending “should be decided on an individual, per-country basis” instead.

    Meanwhile, Wafaa El-Sadr made a neutral point.

    “We have the tools, knowledge, platform and people to make this happen right now, but we need to have high yield in our testing campaigns and stop testing those who repeatedly test negative,” she said.

    The debate is the sixth in a series of debates that tackle issues in today’s HIV response.

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    About the author

    • Jenny Lei Ravelo

      Jenny Lei Ravelo is a Devex Senior Reporter based in Manila. She covers global health, with a particular focus on the World Health Organization, and other development and humanitarian aid trends in Asia Pacific. Prior to Devex, she wrote for ABS-CBN, one of the largest broadcasting networks in the Philippines, and was a copy editor for various international scientific journals. She received her journalism degree from the University of Santo Tomas.