Morning after AIDS drug now in the works
By Wes Brown
A morning after treatment for AIDS is currently under development for widespread use at the University of California.
The post exposure prophylaxis is an anti-HIV project the AIDS Research Institute at the university has been recently promoting. PEP uses azidothymidine, the same drug used to fight full-blown AIDS, to combat the disease before it enters the blood stream.
"The treatment includes 28 days of azidothymidine medicine with potential side effects, at least five counselling sessions and one year of testing," said Michelle Roland, a researcher working on the AIDS program at the University of California.
"We have over 200 people enrolled, our goal is to enrol over 500," Roland said. "We expected more people to come but are kind of happy because we didn't want people to think there was a 'magic bullet cure' and take more risks."
Tom Macfarlane, director of student and faculty health services at Western, said he is skeptical about PEP treatment being offered in mainstream society or at the university any time soon.
"I'm familiar with the [project] but there has to be a lot of testing. It takes a long time to acquire AIDS. In order to evaluate this, who knows how far we have to watch these cases to see if they become infected."
Clarence Crossman, director of education at the London AIDS Committee, has supported the PEP project from day one and said he is very excited about this development.
"It gives those even accidentally infected, by needle stick for example, another alternative in the fight against the disease," he said.
Crossman, however, stated there are several barriers holding the program back from real widespread use.
"This is by no means a breakthrough. Individual treatment costs can range from $1,000 to $15,000 and are not covered by health care. PEP treatment is also difficult to obtain, especially in Canada and is currently only being offered to health care workers at risk," he said.
As for a 100 per cent effective method in the fight against AIDS, Crossman promotes a clinically proven treatment safe sex and education.