Controversial HIV Study Begins In Montreal

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A volunteer dressed in red T-shirt holds a packet containing a condom to mark World AIDS Day at a train station in Taipei on December 1, 2012. Taiwan's health department organised the event to boost the awareness for HIV/AIDS prevention. (SAM YEH/AFP/Getty Images) | Getty Images

Montreal researchers are rounding up possible recruits for a controversial study on HIV that has already made headlines overseas.

A team of researchers is seeking the help of up to 400 HIV-negative gay men to determine whether an anti-retroviral drug could prevent the disease's spread by being ingested up to two hours before or up to a day after having sexual intercourse.

Dr. Cécile Tremblay, an infectious disease specialist at the Université de Montréal, said the medical world is not doing enough to fight the disease.

"I am not satisfied with the status quo, I am not satisfied with what exists right now because we are not moving forward with this goal of eradicating HIV transmission," she said.

Thirteen per cent of gay men in Montreal are HIV-positive, said Tremblay

Methodology

Researchers will study about 400 men who are at high risk of contracting the disease. This means men with multiple partners, who work in the sex industry or whose partners are HIV-positive.

A three-year study conducted in South America and Thailand, which evaluated the effectiveness of a drug taken once every day, showed a 43.8 per cent reduction in the spread of HIV.

In the first study of its kind in North America, Tremblay will be testing the drug Truvada. Instead of taking a pill every day for the rest of their lives, people in the study will take it only when needed.

The research methods are controversial because half of the study's participants will be taking a placebo and there is fear they could be lulled into a false sense of security and stop using condoms.

Dr. Tremblay said other trials have shown people tend to keep themselves protected.

"That's always a worry," she said. "But what we've seen so far in other trials is that it hasn't been the case."

Tremblay said people will be given counselling to support them and encourage them to wear protection.

Researchers emphasize this drug is not meant to be a replacement for condoms but should be considered as an added tool of prevention.

The research will be conducted in two stages.

First, 100 participants will be enrolled in Montreal, another 200 in Paris.

Researchers will then consider adding more people in both cities.

IPERGAY hopes to study an additional 1,600 candidates in France, Canada and other countries.

Trial overseas

The Montreal trial is part of an on-going study in Paris – a city considered to be a hotspot in the fight against AIDS – and is funded by the French National Agency for AIDS Research.

Tom Craig, who is taking part in the French study in Paris, said men should take it upon themselves to participate in the research.

"We have to take an active part in what's going to happen in the future, not just politicians or governments. It's up to us. This is why I am in the study," he said.

For more information about the IPERGAY study and to participate call: 514-890-8000 ext: 15195

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