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African, Caribbean and Black

Feb21

In the search for an HIV cure, David Evans explains “freedom” and how to better involve women & people of color

Tuesday, 21 February 2017 Written by // Guest Authors - Revolving Door Categories // Social Media, African, Caribbean and Black, Women, Health, International , Media, Revolving Door, Guest Authors

From Betablog, Emily Newman reports on an ambitious HIV cure social science research project funded recently by Gilead Sciences.

In the search for an HIV cure, David Evans explains “freedom” and how to better involve women & people of color

To read the entire article by Emily Newman, visit Betablog, here.

At an international AIDS Conference last year, David Evans, director of research advocacy at Project Inform, asked conference attendees to share their ideas about what an HIV cure—that worked for everyone and was freely available—would mean to them or the people they loved.

“By far, the most common answer was ‘freedom,’” he said. “Whether it was freedom from stigma, from discrimination, or from knowing they wouldn’t put their partners or future babies at risk for HIV.” This freedom is what Evans has in mind as he, and colleagues, embark on an ambitious HIV cure social science research project funded recently by Gilead Sciences. The project, Evans explained to BETA, will investigate some of the ethical and moral dilemmas cropping up in HIV cure research these days—like the exclusion (whether deliberate or not) of women and people of color from HIV cure studies.

“I want to speed up the pace of cure research so that people can get to that freedom. But if we don’t do the social science research, I think we run the risk of leaving certain communities and people behind. And those communities might be the ones who need an HIV cure the most,” he said.

Will women participate?

In many cure studies conducted thus far, said Evans, less than 20% of participants have been women. Many studies don’t even report the sex or gender of the people who participate. There’s skepticism among some scientists that HIV cure strategies might work differently between men and women, and some believe that any sex differences can be worked around after effective cure strategies are developed. But there are some hints of meaningful sex differences, which could influence whether or not to even pursue particular products or strategies. For instance, said Evans, estrogen and estrogen receptor levels might change the efficacy of some drugs used in “kick and kill” HIV cure therapies. More or less estrogen could make or break the potential of those drugs.

Evans plans to talk to women one-on-one and in focus group settings to find out what might entice or prohibit them from participating in HIV cure studies. He said many of the women he speaks to will be African American or Latina—something that hasn’t been done yet as part of HIV cure research. “It will be important to talk to enough women of color to understand any specific challenges they might have,” he said.

For instance, Evans will be asking about barriers to participating in HIV cure studies. “A woman who works one or two jobs, who has childcare responsibilities, who may even be taking care of an elderly relative—might not be able to take 4 or 5 hours every other week to be hooked up to a leukophoresis machine for an HIV cure study. It’s not that caring for others and multiple jobs are exclusive to women, but they are much more common for them,” he explained.

To read the entire article by Emily Newman, visit Betablog, here.

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