Conversations from CROI 2015: Dr. Gina Brown and Dr. Ron Valdiserri on Microbicides, Women and HIV

Content From: Miguel Gomez Director, AIDS.gov, and Senior Communications Advisor, Office of HIV/AIDS and Infectious Disease Policy, U.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesPublished: March 06, 20152 min read

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As we approach the annual observance of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (CROI). While at CROI in Seattle last week, Dr. Ronald Valdiserri, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Health, Infectious Diseases, spoke with Dr. Gina Brown who leads women and girls and microbicide research activities at NIH’s Office of AIDS Research and read the abstractExit Disclaimer).

Dr. Brown also discussed the disappointing results presented at CROI from a clinical trial that evaluated the safety and effectiveness a vaginal gel used to prevent women from acquiring HIV infection. The lead researcher, Dr. Helen Rees, reported that while the USAID -funded FACTS 001 studyExit Disclaimer (MTN) is currently studying a new technology to address adherence issues that tests a potential microbicide (dapivarine) delivered via an intravaginal ring.

Dr. Brown observed though, that a separate study, the HPTN 067 trial, reported more promising findings regarding PrEP adherence among women. That study, also based in South Africa, investigated whether a non-daily versus daily regimen of oral PrEP (in the form of a pill, not a gel), resulted in preventing HIV infection. It concluded that daily dosing resulted in greater adherence and “may foster better habit formation and provide the most forgiveness for missed doses.” (Read the related abstract, 978B, hereExit Disclaimer.)

Finally, Drs. Brown and Valdiserri highlighted a conference discussion about the association of hormonal contraceptives and HIV risk among women. The session, “Hormonal Contraceptives: Enduring Controversy,” explored some of the mechanisms by which contraceptives could increase HIV risk. Dr. Brown observed that among the important topics explored during the session was the fact that a woman’s risk for HIV as well as her risk for unplanned pregnancy, which may also increase morbidity and mortality, both must be considered when designing effective strategies for HIV prevention and treatment for women. (View the videosExit Disclaimer from this discussion beginning with opening remarks by Dr. Betsy Herold of Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Read the related abstracts beginning on this pageExit Disclaimer.)Read about Dr. Gina Brown's observations and watch the video from the 2014 International AIDS Conference in Melbourne.