Seattle will be the site for one of the first studies in the nation on giving “morning after” pills to people who have sex with AIDS-infected partners.
The six-month pilot project, to begin this fall, will enroll 60 gay or bisexual men.
Thirty of the volunteers will have 24-hour access to a three-drug combination should they think they might have been sexually exposed to HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Another 30 will be told of private doctors who may provide the medications.
The study will examine which types of sexual exposure prompt the men to seek treatment.
It also will observe how well they comply with the rigorous medication schedule of about 10 capsules a day, as well as tracking the drugs’ side effects and impact on behavior.
The drug combination is AZT and 3TC, which interferes with an early stage of HIV’s replication process, and nelfinavir, one of the new, powerful anti-AIDS drugs called “protease inhibitors.”
If the pilot study is successful, a larger nationwide study next year will test the effectiveness of treating exposure to the human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV, in this way. Researchers also are considering later studies of using the treatment after HIV exposure from injection drug use.
The National Institutes of Health is funding the studies nationwide with a $1.3 million grant for the pilot sexual-exposure study and $1.6 million for the pilot counseling study.