October 24, 2018 -- Population Council researchers presented new evidence on promising biomedical and behavioral strategies to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections at the HIV Research for Prevention (HIVR4P) conference in Madrid this week, the world’s only scientific meeting dedicated exclusively to biomedical HIV prevention.
“The Council’s research at HIVR4P illustrates significant scientific advances, but also the obstacles to developing effective strategies to support HIV prevention among key populations at highest risk for HIV, including women and girls,” said Julie Pulerwitz, director of HIV and AIDS program at the Population Council. “If we want to slow the HIV epidemic, we must continue to prioritize evidence-based policies, programs and prevention methods that meet the real-life needs of those at highest risk.”
Population Council scientists presented new research on efforts to reduce HIV risk among adolescent girls and young women as part of the DREAMS partnership. DREAMS is working with girls and young women, their families, their partners and their communities in some of the highest-burden areas in sub-Saharan Africa to slow the spread of HIV. Results from a new study in South Africa looking at their male partners show that men’s own traumatic experiences influence their high-risk behaviors and vulnerabilities, which in turn increases adolescent girls’ and young women’s HIV risk. These findings suggest an opportunity for tailored programs to both reach men more effectively with key services like testing and treatment, and to reduce HIV risk for adolescent girls and young women. Researchers also presented results from a DREAMS study in Kenya, which show that adolescent girls and young women experience high levels of sexual violence from both intimate partners and non-partners, and that these experiences are also associated with other negative health outcomes, such as risk for sexually transmitted infections.
DREAMS partners are using evidence from ten ongoing Population Council studies in seven countries to direct resources toward more effective programs and better ensuring interventions are effectively reaching the most vulnerable adolescent girls and young women. Additional findings under the DREAMS partnership and emerging insights can be found in a collection of articles published in PLOS One.
Council researchers also presented new data from a novel multipurpose prevention technology product, which show that it may be possible to develop a discreet, on-demand, easy-to-use technology under a woman’s control to prevent HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with limited risk of cross-resistance to antiretrovirals (ARVs). Results from the first in-human trial of griffithsin show that a gel containing griffithsin and carrageenan is safe for vaginal use for up to 14 days, and has potent anti-HIV activity in cell-based assays and cervical explants up to 8 hours after receiving the dose. Additional data presented at the meeting and published in collaboration with PATH in the Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and in Nature Communications, suggest the potential of formulating griffithsin as a fast dissolving insert that a woman could administer at the time of sex to prevent HIV, herpes simplex virus (HSV-2) and human papilloma virus (HPV), three incurable sexually transmitted infections. Griffithsin, one of the most potent anti-HIV agents described in the literature to date, is a naturally-occurring algae-derived protein that inhibits HIV and other pathogens, including HSV-2.
More than 10 Population Council presentations were shared at HIV R4P, including a study on women’s perceptions of vaginal rings as potential new HIV prevention strategies (P09.23) and another study assessing the likelihood of adolescent girls and young women to use pre-exposure prophylaxis to (PrEP) to prevent HIV transmission (P14.41). A full listing of the Council’s presentations is available here.
Support for the Non-ARV-based Microbicide that Blocks HIV and Other STIs project is provided by the U.S. Agency for International Development, through the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) (USAID Cooperative Agreement number AID-OAA-A-14-00009).