Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

$70 Million Grant to Pitt-Magee Could Revolutionize Aids Fight

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

$70 Million Grant to Pitt-Magee Could Revolutionize Aids Fight

Article excerpt

A vaginal ring that prevents both AIDS and pregnancy with one device? A rectal gel that kills HIV, the virus that causes AIDS?

These may be the next frontier in the global fight against AIDS, and both are being developed by a program based at the University of Pittsburgh and Magee-Womens Research Institute that has just secured $70 million from the National Institutes of Health.

Researchers say the work has the potential to revolutionize AIDS prevention in the same way that Jonas Salk's vaccine prevented polio, putting Pittsburgh in the forefront of another worldwide public health advancement.

The funding, to be disbursed over seven years, will support an already extensive program at Pitt called the Microbicide Trials Network, which does clinical trials with partners in 31 countries on four continents, including Africa, where AIDS is alarmingly common.

The network has completed 13 trials since 2006 and has 11 more underway. It is also planning to design and implement several additional studies with the new funding.

Microbicides are products designed to kill the microbes that carry the AIDS virus. They are applied inside the vagina or rectum to prevent sexual transmission of AIDS.

Sharon Hillier, co-principal investigator and a professor at the Pitt School of Medicine, said that despite huge progress in fighting AIDS over the past decade, "Two groups continue to have high rates of new HIV infection -- young women and men who have sex with men."

The network's focus is to target their unmet needs, although any advancements will have major implications for all sexually active people.

"Ultimately, we want to identify a lubricant-like product that both men and women can use to protect themselves from acquiring HIV during anal sex," said her colleague, Ian McGowan, co-principal investigator and professor at the Pitt School of Medicine. …

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