Knowledge is power

Dr.-Sam-Ho-photo

Dr. Sam Ho

A generation of young people have never known a world without AIDS, but their complacency means new infections continue

People who weren’t yet born when AIDS first emerged are today most at risk for becoming HIV positive — an alarming development that underscores how essential awareness is, especially as we approach World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.

From 2006 to 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the HIV incidence rate for Americans between 13 and 29 years old increased by about 21 percent. In fact, most of the new HIV infections reported in this country involve people under 30.

Americans under 30 have never known a world without AIDS. At the same time, they’ve never really known a time when effective treatment for HIV and AIDS wasn’t available. This hasn’t always been the case. As this disease turns 30, we need to ensure that people — especially younger people — remain aware of AIDS and how to prevent it.

AIDS awareness is one of the biggest challenges we face when trying to prevent it. After 30 years of addressing what was once considered one of America’s most pressing health problems, AIDS is no longer front page news. But on this World AIDS Day, let’s not forget that about 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year, according to the CDC, and that more than 14,000 Americans with AIDS die each year.

Thanks to more effective and more available treatments, more Americans who have HIV and AIDS are able to live. The CDC estimates this number at more than 1 million nationwide. Regularly testing people most at risk for HIV — and then providing antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients — dramatically reduces the number of new infections.

Preventing HIV is not complicated. If you’re sexually active, get tested. Don’t use IV drugs or share needles. Abstain or practice safer sex.

With preventive care, patients and their health care providers can fight and manage this disease and slow its spread. But we can’t allow today’s more effective treatments to make us complacent or ambivalent, or to lessen our resolve to find a cure.

To learn more or to find a place near you to get tested, visit ActAgainstAIDS.org.

Dr. Sam Ho, M.D., is the chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

We Were Here, AIDS documentary at 14 Pews

We Were HereWe Were Here, the award winning documentary of the early days of the AIDS crisis, premiers at 14 Pews theater (800 Aurora) Saturday, November 20, at 4:30 pm. The film, from director David Weissman, will be proceeded by a panel discussion on the state of the AIDS crisis today.

I came out in 1998, right at the tail end of the worst days of the AIDS crisis. I remember, with vivid clarity, the days of the walking wounded: when every other gay man I met would tell how their doctor said they should have died five years ago, when the community told time by recalling if an event took place before or after a certain person’s funeral.

Fortunately those days are largely behind us, but as new HIV infections continue to rise and we struggle to maintain funding for medications that are keeping people alive (at a cost of thousands of dollars a month), it’s important that we never forget the early days of the pandemic. For people of my generation and younger the mysterious “Gay Plague” that threatened our community in the early eighties can seem more like a fairy tale monster than the horrifying crisis it was, and is.

We Were Here tells the real life stories of five people who survived. Their mundane and profound recollections highlight, not only their personal experiences, but the broad political and social upheavals unleashed by the crisis. From their different vantage points as caregivers, activists, researchers, as friends and lovers of the afflicted, and as people with AIDS themselves, the interviewees share stories which are not only intensely personal, but which also illuminate the much larger themes of that era: the political and sexual complexities, and the terrible emotional toll. The film highlights the role of women – particularly lesbians – in caring for and fighting for their gay brothers.

Tickets for We Were Here are $10 and can be purchased at 14pews.org.

After the jump watch the trailer for We Were Here.

—  admin

Big changes ahead for ASOs

AIDS agencies have to look for ways to branch out if they want to survive and thrive under health care reform

Tammye Nash  |  Senior Editor
nash@dallasvoice.com

An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and 20 percent of them are not even aware of it, according to the Centers for Disease Control. And a CDC report released in early August suggests that there are about 50,000 new HIV infections each year.

And yet, federal funding for HIV/AIDS services have remained flat for the last five years — from funding for medical services to research dollars to money for support services — according to Raeline Nobles, executive director of AIDS Arms Inc.

And that means, Nobles and Resource Center Dallas Executive Director and CEO Cece Cox agreed this week, that the nonprofit, community-based organizations that have been the backbone have to look ahead and keep their options open to remain viable.

Changes in the way that federal funds through the Ryan White CARE Act are distributed — requiring that 75 cents of every Ryan White dollar be used for core medical services — give an edge to nonprofits that operate clinics. And that means that AIDS Arms, which just opened its second clinic last month — is “more competitive at the national, state and local levels,” Nobles said. “With the number of people who are uninsured and living at poverty levels, access to any kind of medical care is a priority. So if you are providing those kinds of services, it does give you an edge.”

Agencies that don’t provide those kinds of services, she added, can get in on that competitive edge by collaborating with those that do.

“There’s really no new money to sustain new agencies,” Nobles said. “AIDS is definitely off the docket in terms of diseases people seem to be concerned about. In fact, any HIV provider across the country who is not considering all their options is in a great deal of denial, and that may well come back to bite them rather severely.”

There’s also health care reform to consider, with several parts of the law passed in late 2010 still to be implemented. That reform, said Cox, is changing the face of community health clinics, like RCD’s Nelson-Tebedo Clinic, and HIV/AIDS service programs.

“Our nutrition program is a good example,” Cox said. “It has really been hammered in terms of federal funds, so we have focused on supporting the program through the community, foundations and corporations. … It is an amazing puzzle we have pieced together, even with cuts in traditional funding streams. But we have managed. We have done the things we felt we had to do.”

And there are more changes coming. Nobles said that if the Ryan White funds survive beyond 2013 when more health care reform measures go into effect, “it likely won’t include any money for outpatient services like we offer” at the Peabody Clinic and the new Trinity Clinic.

“So we have to take a look at what we do best, and we can use our model and globalize it into different areas. We have to become even more sustainable. Diversification of business is key to survival,” Nobles said. “It can’t just be about HIV and AIDS any more.”

Nobles said “serious discussion has been going on at AIDS Arms for at least two years, at the board and staff levels” about how the agency can expand its focus beyond HIV/AIDS and remain viable.

“We have to diversify our business plan. The situation has been serious for awhile and it is becoming even more serious for our board,” Nobles said. “We hope to have, by early 2012, a final business plan in place to move into the future.

“Health care reform is a great thing for a lot of people, but it poses real challenges for the nonprofit sector. You have to stay ahead of the curve, or health care reform will run right over you. We definitely want to stay ahead of that curve,” she continued. “The HIV nonprofit community has the best model of care and support the U.S. has ever seen. That model can be globalized to include care for other disease — heart disease, cancer, diabetes.”

Cox said that staff and board members at Resource Center Dallas also began planning for the changing future some time ago, and its current capital campaign to build a new facility is part of the plan.

“Nobody seems to have all the answers right now. The feds won’t say what they will and what they won’t fund. So savvy business people are already thinking, ‘If this funding goes away, what can we do instead?’” Cox said.

“Everybody feels like the challenge working in the nonprofit sector is that you are always aware there is so much more that needs to be done,” she added. “But doing more requires more space, more staff, more resources. And to have that, you have to build the business in a way that is sustainable. And you have to remember, nobody can do everything.”

Both Cox and Nobles are quick to remind that even though their agencies are “nonprofits,” they are businesses nonetheless, and have to be operated with an eye toward success.

“There has been, and probably still is, the mindset about nonprofits. People expect the nonprofits to be there to provide all these services without caring about costs,” Cox said. “But the fact is, nonprofit or not, these agencies have to be run like a business. You have to anticipate, plan ahead. You have to put the structures in place and you have to invest. We make large investments in our staff and in technology. For-profit business sell stock and they answer to their stockholders. We get our money from our donors, and we have an obligation to let our donors know what we do with their money and to let them know we use it responsibly.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 11, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

Abounding Prosperity receives $1.7 million grant

South Dallas prevention organization targets population hardest hit by new HIV infections

FUTURE MOVE? | Kirk Myers, CEO of Abounding Prosperity, says that his agency, now located in South Dallas across the street from the Peabody Health Center, will have to move to a bigger space to adequately house the extra staff he needs to operate the grant the agency just received from the CDC. (David Taffet/DallasVoice.

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Abounding Prosperity, a South Dallas-based AIDS education organization, has been awarded a grant from the Centers for Disease Control, and is the only agency in the Dallas-Fort Worth area to be included in this round of CDC funding.

The money will be used to expand HIV prevention services for young gay and bisexual men of color, transgender youth of color and their partners, according to Kirk Myers, CEO of Abounding Prosperity.

Myers said that his organization was one of the few nationally that got fully funded. The five-year grant totals $1.7 million.

The CDC awarded prevention grants to 34 agencies around the country. This expands on an earlier program to reach the targeted populations with an increase of $10 million to $55 million nationally over five years, funding a larger number of community organizations.

“We will be trying to identify those people who are positive and unaware,” Myers said,“and help those people who are positive and know their status to become responsible for not reinfecting themselves or anyone else.

“We see ourselves as a prevention organization rather than a care organization,” he added.

Although three Dallas AIDS organizations applied for the grant money, Myers said he believes Abounding Prosperity was chosen because it targets African-American men who have sex with men (MSM) between the ages of 17 and 29, the group hardest hit with new infections in Dallas.

That includes many who are unemployed and underemployed.

To encourage testing and behavioral intervention, Myers suggested using incentives such as gift cards that might cover gas costs.

“Even though testing should be done routinely, you’re not worried about testing when you’re worried about your next meal,” Myers said.

In addition to testing, the focus will be on using evidence-based interventions designed to create behavior changes using techniques that have proven successful with gay men.

Myers said he will need to triple the size of his staff to nine and add more office space to operate the grant. He has already looked at two properties on MLK Boulevard near Abounding Prosperity’s current office.

Myers said that he would like to collaborate with Dallas County and other AIDS organizations’ programs to reach the most underserved populations.

He specifically mentioned Resource Center Dallas’ syphilis elimination program as an obvious partner.

“Syphilis is off the charts in Dallas,” Myers said. “And if you’re putting yourself at risk for syphilis, you’re putting yourself at risk for HIV.”

But, Myers said, his ultimate goal is to do the job of education and prevention so well that he can put Abounding Propserity out of business.

“I want to eradicate AIDS,” he said.

Ryan White funds

In addition, the Health Resources and Services Administration of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced $1.89 billion in grants to states for HIV/AIDS care and medications. Texas was awarded $85,856,474 in Ryan White money designated “supplemental part B.”

The state also received $786,424 in AIDS Drug Assistance Program (ADAP) Emergency Relief Awards.

ADAP funding matches money spent by the state. Texas cut its ADAP funding, which may be a reason smaller states are receiving more money. Georgia and Louisiana each were awarded $3 million and Florida almost $7 million in emergency drug assistance money.

Dallas will receive $14,625,082 and Fort Worth $3,864,274 in Ryan White Part A funding. Dallas awards are administered for the region by the county. Other cities in Texas receiving these grants are Houston ($19.7 million), San Antonio and Austin ($4.4 million each).

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition September 30, 2011.

—  Michael Stephens

UN urges more funds for early HIV treatment

Report comes on heels of study showing medicines dramatically reduce spread of virus

EDITH M. LEDERER | Associated Press

UNITED NATIONS — The United Nations AIDS agency on Friday urged increased funding for early treatment of people with HIV following a new international study showing it could dramatically reduce the number of new infections through sexual transmission.

UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said pushing for early treatment “is at the top of the agenda” following the striking results of an international study overseen by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

The nine-nation study offered convincing evidence of what scientists have long believed — that HIV medicines don’t just benefit the patient, but may act as a preventive by making those people less infectious. Earlier treatment in the study meant patients were 96 percent less likely to spread the virus to their uninfected partners, according to preliminary results announced last month.

Sidibe told a news conference launching a new report by UNAIDS that early treatment and prevention efforts must also be accompanied by better skills for health workers and sex education for young people.

“Access to treatment will transform the AIDS response in the next decade,” Sidibe said. “Anti-retroviral therapy is a bigger game-changer than ever before — it not only stops people from dying, but also prevents transmission of HIV to women, men and children.”

Sidibe stressed that billions of dollars will be needed to meet the agency’s vision for the future — “zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.”

The report said “universal access” to drug treatment for those with HIV is achievable.

UNAIDS released the 139-page document ahead of today’s 30th anniversary of the first official report of what would become the HIV epidemic by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The General Assembly is holding a high-level meeting on AIDS at U.N. headquarters from June 8-10, where 20 world leaders and over 100 ministers are expected.

U.N. Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro said at Friday’s launch that the world is “at a turning point in the AIDS response” and the meeting is an opportunity to “expand HIV services … (and) chart a new path.”

“The goal towards achieving universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support must become a reality by 2015,” she said.

The last decade has seen a nearly 25 percent decline in new HIV infections, a reduction in AIDS-related deaths, and “unprecedented advances” in access to treatment, prevention services and care, the report said.

In India, which has the largest number of people living with HIV in Asia, the rate of new infections fell by more than 50 percent, while in South Africa, which has the largest number of HIV cases in Africa, the rate fell by more than 35 percent, the report said.

But UNAIDS said these achievements are unevenly distributed, exceedingly fragile, and fall short of global targets.

“People in rich countries don’t die from AIDS any more,” former U.S. President Bill Clinton wrote in the report, “but those in poor countries still do — and that’s just not acceptable.”

The report said more than 34 million people were living with HIV at the end of 2010 — including 2.6 million who became newly infected with the virus that causes AIDS in 2009.

It said the proportion of countries conducting systematic surveillance of HIV among high-risk populations increased between 2008 and 2010: from 44 percent to 50 percent for sex workers, and from 30 percent to 36 percent for gay men. An estimated 20 percent of the 15.9 million people who inject drugs worldwide are living with HIV, the report said.

An estimated 6.6 million people in low- and middle-income countries were receiving antiretroviral drug treatment at the end of last year, but about 9 million eligible people in those countries were not, the report said.

According to the report, investment in the response to HIV in low-and middle-income countries rose from US$1.6 billion in 2001 to US$15.9 billion in 2009.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon wrote in the preface that “the number of people becoming infected and dying is decreasing, but the international resources needed to sustain this progress have declined for the first time in 10 years, despite tremendous unmet needs.”

Sidibe said financial challenges are putting “unprecedented downward pressure on funding sources, internally and internationally.” But he said the right approach can spur all countries “to do things better, with maximum value for money.”

The Lancet, a British medical journal, published a proposal developed byFriday a study group set up by UNAIDS which outlines what the group called “a more targeted and strategic approach to investment.”

Implemeting the new investment framework “would avert 12.2 million new HIV infections and 7.4 million deaths from AIDS between 2011 and 2020 compared with continuation of present approaches,” it said,

“The yearly cost of achievement of universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care, and support by 2015 is estimated at no less than $22 billion,” the Lancet report said, but in the long term the cost of responding to AIDS would be reduced.

—  John Wright

We are ‘greater than AIDS’

A LOOK BACK | Elton John, right, is joined by Ryan White, left, and Jason Robertson, both suffering from AIDS, as he performs at “For the Love of Children” benefit for children with AIDS and other serious illnesses in 1988. (Alan Greth/Associated Press)

As LGBT community grows more complacent, HIV infections in gay, bisexual men continues to rise

DAVID FURNISH  |  Special Contributor

This year marks 30 years since the discovery of the first case of what was later identified as AIDS. With that news, our lives and relationships as gay men were forever altered.

We witnessed an unthinkable tragedy that has taken the lives of more than a quarter million of our gay and bisexual friends and lovers.

In the face of this devastation, leaders emerged. The crisis helped to shape our community’s political agenda, and it provided a platform around which gay leaders could advocate for rights and equality. We realized that if we informed ourselves and acted on what we learned, we could be greater than the disease.

Thanks to the efforts of gay men and our allies, our community saw a dramatic decline in new infections by the late 1980s. Many of us can look back with immense pride at the collective response in those early years.

The availability of effective combination drug therapies in 1996 fundamentally changed how we thought about HIV. No longer was HIV the death sentence it had once been. We had new hope. For many, HIV was a manageable chronic disease.

Many of us turned our attention to marriage equality, adoption rights, the repeal of “don’t ask, don’t tell” and other pressing issues facing our community. While we broadened our focus, AIDS did not.

When we become complacent, HIV thrives. New HIV infections among gay and bisexual men in the United States are on the rise. Yes, on the rise.

We are the only risk group for whom this is the case. According to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control, one in five of us — that is, gay and bisexual men — in some of the largest U.S. cities today are living with HIV. And half of those who are positive do not know it.

Unless we act now, we will see these numbers rise even higher, and quickly.

My partner, Sir Elton John, often talks of his friend Ryan White, a boy whose tremendous courage in the face of AIDS forced our leaders to take action and inspired many of us. Today, Ryan’s story continues to remind us that just as HIV began one person at a time, it will end one person a time.

Elton and I recently had a baby boy. Becoming fathers has given us new perspective on what it means to take care of one another — as parents, as partners and as members of a community.

And, it reminds us that we cannot be complacent in helping to create the kind of society in which we want our son to grow up. In short, we must take responsibility and each do our part to create a future free of HIV, by being informed, using protection, getting tested and treated — and by getting involved.

And so, as we mark 30 years of this disease, Elton and I have recommitted ourselves to being greater than AIDS. As chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation, I’m proud of the community organizations with which we are working to fight stigma and prevent the spread of the disease. And I’m proud that leading LGBT companies — like HERE Media, LOGO TV and Dallas Voice — are refocusing attention on this epidemic. And I hope more will join us.

As a community, we once showed that we could be greater than AIDS. Now is our time to do it again. Visit GreaterThan.org/pride to get started.

David Furnish is Chairman of the Elton John AIDS Foundation (EJAF.org). The Elton John AIDS Foundation is a supporting partner of Greater Than AIDS (GreaterThan.org/pride), a national movement organized in response to AIDS in America with a focus on the most affected communities. Columnist photo courtesy Richard Leslie.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 4, 2011.

—  John Wright

BREAKTHROUGH: Study shows anti-retroviral drugs reduce infection in HIV-negative men

A study published today in the New England Journal of Medicine found that the use of daily anti-retroviral medication reduces the risk of infection in HIV-negative gay men.

The study was done in six countries with 2,500 gay, bisexual and other men who have sex with men. Using the drug Truvada, they found that it can prevent men from acquiring HIV.

Among the enrolled participants, there were 36 infections among individuals who received the drug and 64 new infections among placebo recipients. Researchers estimated that the use of the preventive medication cut new HIV infections by an estimated 44 percent overall when compared to the placebo. This is the first evidence that a drug regimen can reduce the risk of HIV among HIV-negative men.

“Condoms are still the first line of defense, but we’re hopeful that [Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Initiative] may be an important addition to a comprehensive prevention toolbox that will help prevent new infections among gay men,” said National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors executive director Julie Scofield.

Bret Camp from Resource Center Dallas’ Nelson-Tebedo Clinic called it a milestone but cautioned about the side effects and long-term damage of Truvada. He stressed that this therapy will not replace traditional prevention methods.

More on the breakthrough in this Friday’s World AIDS Day Edition of Dallas Voice.

—  David Taffet

Dallas rate of new HIV infections higher than national average

New statistics released by CDC examine infection rates in MSM in 21 major metro areas

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer taffet@dallasvoice.com

In September, the Centers for Disease Control issued new HIV statistics for men who have sex with men in 21 metropolitan areas.

They tested 8,153 men and found HIV prevalence was 28 percent among blacks, 18 percent among Hispanics and 16 percent among whites. In Dallas, 461 men participated in the study.

The statistics were worse for Dallas than the 21 cities as a whole. Nationally, 19 percent of those tested were positive. In Dallas, 26 percent were positive. About 44 percent of those who tested positive in the full survey were previously unaware of their status. In Dallas, 54 percent were previously unaware.

In Houston, the same percentage tested positive as in Dallas, but only 23 percent were previously unaware of their status.

Only Philadelphia, Detroit and San Juan had higher percentages of participants than Dallas who did not previously know their status. Each of those cities scored more than 70 percent unaware. Only Baltimore and New York City revealed a higher percentage of new HIV infections than Dallas or Houston.

The study found that HIV prevalence dropped with higher education levels and with higher income levels.

Positive testing increased with age but those in their 30s were most likely to be unaware of their status.

For more on the report go online to cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5937a2.htm?s_cid=mm5937a2_w

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition October 08, 2010.

—  Kevin Thomas

AIDS breakthrough: Gel helps prevent infection

MARILYNN MARCHIONE  |  AP Medical Writer

MILWAUKEE — For the first time, a vaginal gel has proved capable of blocking the AIDS virus: It cut in half a woman’s chances of getting HIV from an infected partner in a study in South Africa. Scientists called it a breakthrough in the long quest for a tool to help women whose partners won’t use condoms.

The results need to be confirmed in another study, and that level of protection is probably not enough to win approval of the microbicide gel in countries like the United States, researchers say. But they are optimistic it can be improved.

“We are giving hope to women,” who account for most new HIV infections, said Michel Sidibe in a statement. He is executive director of the World Health Organization’s UNAIDS program. A gel could “help us break the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic,” he said.

And Dr. Anthony Fauci of the U.S. National Institutes of Health said, “It’s the first time we’ve ever seen any microbicide give a positive result” that scientists agree is true evidence of protection.

The gel, spiked with the AIDS drug tenofovir, cut the risk of HIV infection by 50 percent after one year of use and 39 percent after 2 1/2 years, compared to a gel that contained no medicine.

To be licensed in the U.S., a gel or cream to prevent HIV infection may need to be at least 80 percent effective, Fauci said. That might be achieved by adding more tenofovir or getting women to use it more consistently. In the study, women used the gel only 60 percent of the time; those who used it more often had higher rates of protection.

The gel also cut in half the chances of getting HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes. That’s important because other sexually spread diseases raise the risk of catching HIV.

Even partial protection is a huge victory that could be a boon not just in poor countries but for couples anywhere when one partner has HIV and the other does not, said Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, the South African researcher who led the study. In the U.S., nearly a third of new infections each year are among heterosexuals, he noted.

Countries may come to different decisions about whether a gel that offers this amount of protection should be licensed. In South Africa, where one in three girls is infected with HIV by age 20, this gel could prevent 1.3 million infections and 826,000 deaths over the next two decades, he calculated.

He will present results of the study Tuesday at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna. The research was published online Monday by the journal Science.

“We now have a product that potentially can alter the epidemic trends … and save millions of lives,” said Dr. Quarraisha Abdool Karim, the lead researcher’s wife and associate director of the South African program that led the testing.

It’s the second big advance in less than a year on the prevention front. Last fall, scientists reported that an experimental vaccine cut the risk of HIV infection by about 30 percent. Research is under way to try to improve it.

If further study shows the gel to be safe and effective, WHO will work to speed access to it, said its director-general, Dr. Margaret Chan.

The gel is in limited supply; it’s not a commercial product, and was made for this and another ongoing study from drug donated by California-based Gilead Sciences Inc., which sells tenofovir in pill form as Viread. If further study proves the gel effective, a full-scale production system would need to be geared up to make it.

The study tested the gel in 889 heterosexual women in and near Durban, South Africa. Researchers had no information on the women’s partners, but the women were heterosexual and, in general, not in a high-risk group, such as prostitutes.

Half of the women were given the microbicide and the others, a dummy gel. Women were told to use it 12 hours before sex and as soon as possible within 12 hours afterward.

At the study’s end, there were 38 HIV infections among the microbicide group versus 60 in the others.

The gel seemed safe — only mild diarrhea was slightly more common among those using it. Surveys showed that the vast majority of women found it easy to use and said their partners didn’t mind it. And 99 percent of the women said they would use the gel if they knew for sure that it prevented HIV.

This shows that new studies testing the gel’s effectiveness without a placebo group should immediately be launched, said Salim Abdool Karim. The only other study testing the gel now compares it to placebo and will take a couple more years to complete.

The study was sponsored by the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, or CAPRISA; Family Health International; CONRAD, an AIDS research effort based at Eastern Virginia Medical School; and the U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID.

Gilead has licensed the rights to produce the gel, royalty-free, to CONRAD and the International Partnership on Microbicides for the 95 poorest countries in the world, said Dr. Howard Jaffe, president of the Gilead Foundation, the company’s philanthropic arm.

The biggest cost of the gel is the plastic applicator — about 32 cents, which hopefully would be lower when mass-produced, researchers said.

Mitchell Warren, head of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, a nonprofit group that works on HIV prevention tools, said the study shows a preventive gel is possible.

“We can now say with great certainty that the concept has been proved. And that in itself is a day for celebration,” he said.

—  John Wright