More news from the NIAID. A recent clinical trial funded by the NIAID found that acyclovir use did not reduce the risk of acquiring sexually transmitted HIV when given to men and women infected with HSV-2. Researchers speculated that acyclovir could reduce HIV transmission by suppressing HSV-2 and preventing genital sores and breaks in the skin.
HSV-2 is especially prevalent in areas with high rates of HIV infection. While many individuals infected with HSV-2 are unaware they have the virus given its inapparent state, HSV-2 can be a risk factor for HIV transmission. Sores and breaks in the skin can make it easier for HIV transmission to occur and active HSV-2 infection attracts specific immune cells to the genital region that are easily infected with HIV.
How did they ethically conduct this study investigating HIV transmission? Participants received wither a twice-daily, 400 mg dose of acyclovir tablets or placebo tablets and were extensively counseled on how to avoid exposure to HIV and were supplied with condoms. The difference in the experimental and control groups’ incidence of HIV was not statistically significant (3.9% HIV incidence rate in the acyclovir treated individuals and 3.3% incidence rate in the placebo group).