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HIV/AIDS Cure: Diversity in Treatment Trials Questioned as Data Find Studies Tend to Recruit More Men Than Women

A woman holds an antiretroviral drug | Photo by NIAID/Flickr.com

A recently published analysis finds that ongoing trials for HIV/AIDS treatments tend to recruit more men subjects than women. It sounds alarming, considering that the latest global statistics show there are much more women diagnosed with HIV.

This year, the world celebrated the news of a second patient getting “cured” from HIV through stem cell transplant. It has once again proven the humanity that HIV/AIDS can be treated, it is just a matter of when the scientists and researchers in the field would finally develop the complete cure for the epidemic. However, with this great development comes a glaring reality.

The said analysis from 2016 concluded that women tend to be under-represented in medical research for HIV treatments and trials for antiretroviral therapy, vaccines, and cure strategies. According to the paper, the number of women recruited for trials composed a median of 19.2 percent in ARV, 38.1 percent in vaccines, and 11.1 percent in cure strategies research. “Although women comprise nearly half of people living with HIV, they continue to be under-represented in clinical studies,” the study concluded.

On the other hand, the latest HIV/AIDS global data show there were 36.9 million people living with the disease as of 2017. UNAIDS estimated there were around 18.2 million adult women (ages 15 and above) diagnosed with HIV per the latest data collected.

Meanwhile, the 2016 report is more than just a call for diversity. Earlier medical studies have also shown that women and men tend to have different reactions in drugs and how their immune system responds to treatments, the New York Times reported. The same article noted that women are found to develop AIDS much faster than men, added to that, they have a higher risk of suffering from cardiac complications.

Various HIV/AIDS foundations have also pointed out that women and young girls face the risk of contracting the virus for several factors such as sexual violence. “More than one third (35%) of women around the world have experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some time in their lives,” UNAIDS reported. “In some regions, women who experience violence are one and a half times more likely to become infected with HIV.”

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