via Citizens News Service, by Somya Arora

According to the Microbicides Trials Network (MTN), HIV continues to disproportionately affect racial minorities and men who have sex with men (MSM). MTN estimates that 5 to 10 percent of the world’s population engages in anal sex and globally, MSM are 19 times more likely to be infected with HIV than the general population. Unprotected anal sex is the primary driver of the HIV epidemic among this population. 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 being only one-cell thick, it allows the virus to easily reach immune cells to infect. 
“Rectal microbicides are critical to turn the tide of the AIDS pandemic as we know that unprotected anal intercourse is the riskiest of HIV related behaviours. Human beings, all over the world, regardless of gender and sexuality, have anal intercourse and a lot of this is unprotected because they do not have access to condoms and/or because of the mistaken notion that anal intercourse is safer than vaginal intercourse with regards to contracting HIV. Having more tools for protection, in addition to what we already have, I think would be absolutely critical,” says Jim Pickett, Director (Advocacy), Chicago AIDS Foundation and founder-chair of International Rectal Microbicide Advocates (IRMA).

In an update on the CHARM (Combination HIV Antiretroviral Rectal Microbicide) Program, Dr Ian McGowan, Professor of Medicine, University of Pittsburgh, and Co-principal Investigator MTN, informs that, “Microbicides are products that can be applied to the vaginal or rectal mucosa with the intent of preventing or significantly reducing the risk of acquiring Sexually Transmitted Infections including HIV. Combination antiretrovirals are more potent and more useful as rectal microbicides. The rationale behind the CHARM programme is that we need a rectal specific combination antiretroviral microbicide.”

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