The Swiss National AIDS Commission was criticized by North American and European health experts yesterday after it released a statement saying that it was okay for some HIV+ people to have unprotected sex with negative partners.
“The Swiss National AIDS Commission said patients who meet strict conditions, including successful antiretroviral treatment to suppress the virus and who do not have any other sexually transmitted diseases, do not pose a danger to others. The proposal, published this week in the Bulletin of Swiss Medicine, astonished leading AIDS researchers in Europe and North America who have long argued that safe sex with a condom is the single most effective way of preventing the spread of the disease — apart from abstinence. ‘Not only is (the Swiss proposal) dangerous, it’s misleading and it is not considering the implications of the biological facts involved with HIV transmission,’ said Jay Levy, director of the Laboratory for Tumor and AIDS Virus Research at the University of California in San Francisco.”
The Swiss health experts based their statement on inconclusive U.S. studies showing that transmission depends on viral load in the blood.
The World Health Organization dubbed the new Swiss ‘rules’ an experiment: “The World Health Organization said Switzerland would be the first country in the world to try this approach. ‘There is still some concern that you can never guarantee that somebody will not be infectious, and the evidence I have to say is not conclusive,’ said Charlie Gilks, director of AIDS treatment and prevention at WHO. ‘Many countries in western Europe would regard this as an interesting experiment,’ he said, adding it was unlikely they would follow suit anytime soon. ‘We are not going to be changing in any way our very clear recommendations that people on treatment continue to practice safer sex, including protected sex with a condom, in any relationship,’ Gilks said.”
In related news, scientists are hopeful about new ways they might target dormant HIV: “he AIDS virus has hideouts deep in the immune system that today’s drugs can’t reach. Now scientists finally have discovered how HIV builds one of those fortresses — and they’re exploring whether a drug already used to fight a parasite in developing countries just might hold a key to break in. Researchers have long struggled unsuccessfully to attack what they call reservoirs of dormant HIV, and the new work is in very early stages.”
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