Dr. Richard Beigi is an assistant professor of obstetrics, gynecology and reproductive sciences at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and principal investigator of the clinical trial testing HIV-preventing microbicides in breastfeeding and pregnant women. The trial, based at Magee Women's Hospital, in Oakland, and the University of Alabama, in Birmingham, will test the safety of the tenofovir gel, which has been found to reduce the spread of HIV in women who used it vaginally and men who use it rectally.
How does tenofovir gel work?
It helps block an enzyme crucial to the production and replication of HIV.
A previous study found the gel reduced infections by 39 percent in non-pregnant women. What did you learn from those results?
They tell us that this has tremendous promise to curb the HIV epidemic if used by women … Interestingly, in that study, those women with higher rates of compliance with the regimen showed even higher rates of protection against HIV.
What's the difference between testing in pregnant/breast-feeding women versus non-pregnant?
When we talk about drugs being developed or studied to see if they work, pregnant and lactating women are almost exclusively not involved in the research. This research is unique because this is one of the first times [they] have been included. …
Data suggests [such] women may be more susceptible than non-pregnant women. Data also suggests if a woman gets a new infection during pregnancy or lactation, they are significantly more likely to pass that onto their baby. … Preventing new infections in mothers is a critical piece to minimizing infections globally.