Clinical Trials Show PrEP Reduces Heterosexual HIV Transmission

(BlackDoctor.org) — Two clinical trials conducted in three African nations demonstrated for the very first time that daily antiretroviral (ARV) drug therapy can dramatically reduce the risk of HIV infection for heterosexual couples. The results were announced Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The “groundbreaking findings” in HIV biomedical prevention provide additional evidence that medications originally developed to save lives also offer a powerful way to prevent new infections. This strategy of providing daily ARVs to uninfected people to reduce their risk of HIV infection is called pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP).

PrEP offers a new strategy to prevent HIV cases acquired through heterosexual contact — the epidemic’s primary method of global transmission and a disproportionate factor in Black America.

“I was very excited to hear the results,” says Dazon Dixon Diallo, M.P.H., founder and president of the Atlanta-based Sister Love, an AIDS and reproductive-justice organization targeting Black women worldwide. “These two studies are the only two we know that are giving feedback on biomedical prevention for women. This is a real prevention option.”

The smaller study, known as TDF2, included about 1,200 sexually active, HIV-negative men and women in Botswana. The research, funded by the CDC, found that taking a once-daily tablet of the ARV Truvada — a combination of the drugs tenofovir and emtricitabine, sold by pharmaceutical company Gilead Sciences — reduced the risk of acquiring HIV infection by roughly 63 percent.

The second study, known as Partners PrEP, recruited 4,758 sero-discordant couples — those in which one partner has HIV and the other does not — in Kenya and Uganda. The uninfected partners were randomly assigned to take either Truvada, Viread — an ARV containing only tenofovir, also marketed by Gilead — or a placebo. The HIV-negative partners taking Truvada saw their infection risk drop by 73 percent, while those taking Viread saw theirs drop by an average of 62 percent.

The Partners PrEP findings were so conclusive that researchers ended the trials early because it would have been “unethical” to continue providing participants with placebos. Partners PrEP was conducted by researchers from the University of Washington and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

The two new studies restore confidence in PrEP’s potential to reduce HIV infections among women and heterosexual couples. Earlier this year, researchers reported poor results from a similar study conducted in Kenya, South Africa and Zimbabwe.

“The results have particular significance for Black women in the United States [because] the vast majority [who get] infected by HIV [are infected] through heterosexual transmission,” says Kevin Fenton, M.D. Ph.D., director of the CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention.

“PrEP would provide women with a much-needed way to prevent HIV that they can control for themselves, rather than relying on a male partner to use a condom,” he says. “Especially for women who may be in situations where they are not able to negotiate condom use, this type of prevention method — controlled solely at the discretion of the person taking the pills — would be very important.”

HIV infection rates for Black women are nearly 15 times higher than those of white women and nearly four times of Latinas.

The studies come on the heels of several promising clinical trial findings around the efficacy of vaginal microbicides and PrEP for men who have sex with men. And only two months ago, exciting new research showed that when participants started taking ARVs almost immediately after being diagnosed with HIV rather than waiting until the disease had progressed, they were much less likely to infect others. That strategy is known as treatment as prevention.

“For those of us that have been fighting for so long and looking for any tool in the prevention toolbox that shows promise, it’s always exciting,” says Dazon Diallo. “But we still have to deal with some of those very important issues such as who will have access and how they will get what they need.

“We still need to learn a lot more,” she continues. “The studies were in Africa. Their situations, cultures and especially the gender dynamic are similar but still very different. The behavior around taking daily meds is very different. . . . This is an opportunity to help us recognize the threat of HIV especially to African American women It’s another catalyst to helps us go out and educate.”

Kali Lindsey, senior director of federal policy at Harlem United, agrees. “Historically, Black communities have been seen as not having the capacity to manage these biomedical technologies than other communities,” he says. “One of the things we’ve seen is that Black individuals who are HIV positive are being offered treatment later. Black individuals who are diagnosed with HIV are entering the care system later. These are things we have to work on and see what strategies will work best.”

Lindsey echoes most other HIV/AIDS professionals and stresses that PrEP is not a magic pill. “This is combination prevention. Condoms will not work for everyone. PrEP can be very successful for a certain population. But we can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.”

“PrEP is a lifetime commitment,” explains attorney Vanessa Johnson, deputy executive director of the National Association of People With AIDS. “If you tend not to take your medications, if you tend not to use condoms, if you don’t practice safe, physical and emotional relations with people … it’s going to be interesting to see how it plays out.”

Johnson has a final criticism for those who suggest that PrEP should be marketed as a “boutique” intervention available only to those who can afford it. “It should be available to anybody who wants it. This demonstrates that our health-care system is out of whack.  Because if we are having the discussion of who is going to get it and who is not, something is very wrong,” she says.

The Best Fruits For Diabetics

cherries and blueberries(BlackDoctor.org) — Summer means lots of delicious fruit. But if you have diabetes, you may be wondering how (and even if) which of these healthy seasonal treats are okay for you to enjoy.

According to the American Diabetes Association (ADA) fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals, and fiber and should be a part of a diabetic diet — just keep track of them as you do all your carbs. The key is to keep an eye on portion sizes and stay away from fruits canned in syrups or other types of added sugar. If you are using the glycemic index (GI) to manage your diabetes, most fruits are a good choice because they are low GI.

Satisfy your sweet tooth and keep your blood sugar in check with the following tasty choices:

Berries

Whether you love blueberries, strawberries, or any other type of berries, you have the go-ahead to indulge. According to the ADA, berries are a diabetes superfood because they’re packed with antioxidants, vitamins, and fiber and are low-carb. Three quarters of a cup of fresh blueberries have 62 calories and 16 grams of carbohydrates. If you can resist the urge to just pop them in your mouth, try berries in a parfait, alternating layers of fruit with plain non-fat yogurt — it makes a great dessert or breakfast.

Cherries

Cherries are a low-carb, low GI choice and can safely be included in your diabetic diet. Twelve sweet cherries have 59 calories and 14 grams of carbohydrates. Cherries, especially tart ones, are packed with antioxidants, which may fight heart disease, cancer, and other diseases. Cherries can be purchased fresh, canned, frozen, or dried. But since many canned and dried fruits contain added sugar, be sure to check the labels.

Peaches

Fragrant, juicy peaches are a warm-weather treat and can be included in your low-carb diabetic diet. Peaches contain vitamins A and C, potassium, and fiber. Peaches are delicious on their own or tossed into iced tea for a fruity twist. When you want a snack, whip up a quick smoothie by pureeing peach slices with low-fat buttermilk, crushed ice, and a touch of cinnamon or ginger.

Apricots

Sweet, low-carb apricots are a summer fruit staple and a wonderful addition to your diabetes meal plan. One apricot has just 17 calories and 4 grams of carbohydrates. Four fresh apricots equal one serving and provide more than 70 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement. These fruity jewels are also a good source of fiber. Try mixing some diced apricots into hot or cold cereal or toss some in a salad.

Apples

Give an apple to the teacher, especially if she has diabetes. And toss one in your purse or tote bag if you’re on the go — a small apple is a great fruit choice, with just 54 calories and 14 carb grams. Apples are also loaded with fiber and a good source of vitamin C and potassium. Don’t peel your apples, though — the skins are full of antioxidants.

Oranges

Eat one orange and you’ve gotten all the vitamin C you need in a day. This low-carb, low GI choice comes in at only 15 grams of carbohydrates and 62 calories. Oranges also contain folate and potassium, which can help normalize blood pressure. And while you’re enjoying this juicy treat, don’t forget that other citrus fruits, like grapefruit, are also great choices.

Pears

Pears are a low-carb fruit and a wise addition to your diabetes meal plan. They are a good source of potassium and fiber. Unlike most fruit, they actually improve in texture and flavor after they’re picked. Store pears at room temperature until they’re ripe and perfect for eating (they can then be stored in the refrigerator). Here’s a taste treat: Slice up a pear and toss it into your next spinach salad.

Kiwi

If you’ve never tried a low-carb kiwi, you might not know that its brown fuzzy peel hides a zesty bright green fruit. Delicious kiwi is a good source of potassium, fiber, and vitamin C. One large kiwi has about 56 calories and 13 grams of carbohydrates, so it’s a smart addition to your diabetic diet. Kiwis are available year-round and will last in the refrigerator for up to three weeks.