Mapping Pathways is a multi-national project to develop and nurture a research-driven, community-led global understanding of the emerging evidence base around the adoption of antiretroviral-based prevention strategies to end the HIV/AIDS epidemic. The evidence base is more than results from clinical trials - it must include stakeholder and community perspectives as well.

15 September 2011

Tricky Terminology in HIV Prevention – Part 2: “Microbicides” and “Oral PrEP”

“I think elegance must take second seat to being clear and helping people absorb vast amounts of new information.”

We recently blogged about the terms “abstinence” and “being faithful” – words that have caused a great deal of controversy in the HIV prevention arena. In this post, we discuss another instance of tricky terminology – the need to maintain the distinction between “oral PrEP” and “microbicides,” a difference that is extremely important in the context of the rapidly changing face of HIV prevention.

Lori Heise of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine has some thoughts on this matter. “In the next few years, as policymakers, providers, and potential users are trying to get their minds around all this new research and the expanding array of prevention options” she says, “it is absolutely essential that we stick to the language of ‘oral PrEP’ and ‘microbicides’ (for instance: ‘oral tenofovir’ or ‘tenofovir gel’).”

There has been a move within scientific circles to shift the language toward PrEP and ARVs, just making distinctions between mode of delivery (topical, oral, systemic), and there are supporters of this formulation. “However, as we shift from clinical trials into introduction and use,” she says, “we need every means at our disposal to help people make appropriate distinctions among methods.”(See this Mapping Pathways blog post for a snapshot of the various ways in which antiretrovirals can be used to prevent new HIV infections.)

Clear and accurate terminology help policymakers, advocates, and other stakeholders engage in rational discussions about which methods might best suit the needs of different individuals at different moments in time and with which types of partners or sexual settings. Substituting words or using umbrella terms tends to cloud clarity and cause confusion. “Over the last several months, I have sat through a number of presentations that combine information about oral PrEP and microbicides, but use the language of PrEP to describe both.” Lori recounts. “Even among groups of experts, I have noticed people getting confused – misapplying data, conclusions, or assumptions that mostly apply to microbicides or to oral PrEP, to both.There is a tendency to talk about PrEP and topical PrEP – but people don't register the ‘topical’ and so important nuances are lost.”

Indeed, these different products have critical distinctions to keep in mind. For instance, oral PrEP may potentially protect a wider range of users than microbicides, such as in the case of injection drug users (IDUs) whose primary risk of HIV infection is from tainted syringes, not unprotected sexual intercourse (though we are still waiting on data on the efficacy of PrEP among IDUs. Then, the license to develop tenofovir gel as a microbicide is held by the public sector, while the licenses for oral tenofovir and Truvada – both of which are already available for treatment – are controlled by Gilead. This dual-use issue where ARVs taken orally can be used for either treatment or prevention doesn't exist for any microbicide.

“These distinctions are important, and I think we need to use terminology that helps people keep them in the forefront of their minds – at least for the next few years, as we broaden the circle of discussion to add groups that as yet know very little about PrEP or microbicides....In this case,” says Lori, “I think elegance must take second seat to being clear and helping people absorb vast amounts of new information.”

[Content that is linked from other sources is for informational purposes and should not construe a Mapping Pathways position.]

No comments:

Post a Comment