Leaders in the field of HIV/AIDS listen to a Mapping Pathways presentation at USCA on Thursday. -- AFC Photos-Ed Negron
There are many people talking about PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) in the HIV/AIDS community. Some are all for it, others not so much.
“The conversations are happening but not in any focused way,” said Jessica Terlikowski, director of regional organizing for the AIDS Foundation of Chicago and AIDS United.
That’s the gap that Mapping Pathways intends to fill. The two-year multinational study is researching the efficacy and varied perceptions of oral PrEP, equally alongside other antiretroviral (ARV) prevention methods, such as testing and linkage to care plus treatment (TLC+), post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), and vaginal and rectal microbicides.
At USCA on Thursday, Terlikowski and AIDS United’s Bill McColl presented early results of a 500-person survey on attitudes toward the various prevention methods. It’s too early to draw conclusions from the data, Terlikowski said, but the study could ultimately be a difference maker. The HIV/AIDS epidemic is not identical from country to country and a one-size-fits-all prevention strategy is unlikely to work everywhere.
“This is about thinking about the full range of prevention tools and creating a space for community dialogue. … Mapping Pathways is not about promoting one strategy over another,” Terlikowski said.
The survey began in May and reflected perspectives from the United States, India and South Africa.
One interesting piece of data was nearly half of survey respondents felt that oral PrEP was very important – but an almost equal number had concerns.
In contrast, about 70 percent said they favored the use of microbicides.
“Could it be because we’ve been talking about microbicides for the last 10 to 15 years, while PrEP is relatively new?” asked Mark Ishaug, president/CEO of AIDS United.
Maybe the respondents simply felt more comfortable with microbicides, said Jeanne Bergman, director of global advocacy for the International AIDS Vaccine Institute.
“We need to be careful not to extract from this what we don’t know,” Bergman said.
“All I’m suggesting is these results beg more questions,” said Ishaug, who was formerly president/CEO of the AIDS Foundation of Chicago.
Jessica Terlikowski, director of regional organizing for AFC and AIDS United, takes notes at a Mapping Pathways presentation.
Indeed, there is much more analysis to be done, Terlikowski said. In addition to the survey, Mapping Pathways is also aggregating data from interviews with experts, clinical trials, scientific papers and other sources. Mapping Pathways is a partnership of AIDS United, AIDS Foundation of Chicago, RAND Europe, the Desmond Tutu Foundation and NAZ India.
Merck, the pharmaceutical company, is funding the first year of the study. Mapping Pathways is in the process of trying to secure funding for the second year.
From this point on, most of the work will be geared toward analysis and dissemination of information, Terlikowski said.
To find out more about the research project, check out the Mapping Pathways blog.