This is because current HIV prevention options such as condoms are not arresting the rate of spread of HIV among men who have sex with men and transgender people in the Asia-Pacific region and condom use remains much lower than desired, according to asiantribune.com.
Researchers say rectal microbicides in the form of gels currently under research are being developed and tested to reduce a person’s risk of HIV or other sexually transmitted infections from anal sex.
The risk of becoming infected with HIV during unprotected anal sex is 10 to 20 times greater than unprotected vaginal sex because the rectal lining is only one-cell thick and the virus can more easily reach the immune cells and infect them.
Hence the first-ever study of a rectal microbicide in the Asia-Pacific region that has begun in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand.
Research Institute for Health Sciences in Chiang Mai University which has been a research site for over 35 major International studies in the past years is one of the sites for the study. Similar study sites will commence soon in South Africa, Peru and the US.
The objective of this study is to ascertain the safety of a rectal microbicide gel. Depending upon the outcome of this study, more studies will be conducted later.
The study in Chiang Mai will have 24 study participants. Thirteen study participants have been recruited by June 2014 and 11 more study participants will be recruited by October 2104. The study is expected to finish by the end of first quarter of 2015.
Pongpun Saokhieo, coordinator for this study pointed out that study participants have to be HIV negative and healthy MSM or transgender people and be Thai citizens above 18 years of age.
They should be receptive partners in anal sex and should have had receptive anal sex at least once in the last three months.
If they become HIV positive during the study period, they are excluded from the study and linked to HIV treatment, care and support services.
“Nurse counselors are available round-the-clock on mobile phone helpline with whom they can seek help if any concern arises,” Pongpun added.
Dr Suwat Chariyalertsak, director at the research institute said all approvals for drug-under-research have been received.
The Research Institute for Health Sciences has been acknowledged globally for excelling in clinical trial management and has received awards for best recruitment of study participants.
“We should support trial participants as much as possible because they are sacrificing themselves for the greater common good by volunteering to participate in the research trials,” said Dr Suwat.
While overall new HIV infection rates have dipped by 26 percent in the Asia-Pacific region, men who have sex with men and transgender people remain most vulnerable with 15 and 25 percent living with HIV, according to the 2013 UNAIDS Asia Pacific report.