Black men in focus in U.S. HIV drug trial

By Matthew Bigg
Reuters
Tuesday, January 9, 2007; 10:48 PM

ATLANTA (Reuters) - AIDS research in the United States has often focused on gay white men because the virus was identified early in that group and they developed an effective lobbying voice.

But a clinical trial by the AIDS Research Consortium of Atlanta is focusing on gay black men, who are not as well organized but who have a higher incidence of the disease.

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The trial aims to determine whether an AIDS drug is safe for people who are negative for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. It has stirred debate among participants and researchers about gay sexuality within the black community and its attitude to safe sex.

"The black gay community has become complacent about HIV and STDs (sexually transmitted diseases) as a whole," said Duncan Teague, recruitment coordinator for the project.

"A lot of people in the black gay community are looking for love so they have sex because they think that means that that person loves them," Teague said.

Blacks make up around 12.8 percent of the U.S. population but comprised 50 percent of new diagnoses of HIV in 2003, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Census Bureau.

In Georgia, 78 percent of people diagnosed with AIDS and 81 percent of people diagnosed with HIV in 2005 were black, as were almost all of the women who were newly diagnosed, said Melanie Thompson, the trial's lead investigator.

"African-American men are disproportionately affected by HIV and underrepresented in clinical trials. We are testing in order to know whether a drug is safe for the people who will ultimately use the drug," she said.

"While the study is open to men of any race, we are working hard to enroll as many men of color as possible," she said.

The trial involves giving daily doses of the drug tenofovir, an anti-retroviral drug made by Gilead Sciences Inc. and marketed as Viread, to men.

Participants, who could also be given a placebo, complete a computerized questionnaire about their sex lives and get risk-reduction counseling and condoms at every visit.

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