Controversial trials in Cambodia of a drug that researchers say could guard against AIDS/ HIV have been delayed again, researchers said Wednesday.
The trial, originally scheduled to begin April, could be delayed until at least the end of July and possibly even longer as researchers say they await the arrival of US evaluators who will assess progress on the $1.7 million project, funded in part by the US National Institute of Health and Microsoft mogul Bill Gates’ charity foundation.
“I don’t know if it’s possible to have [preparations] done by that time,” said Saphonn Vonthanak, deputy director of the National Center for HIV/AIDS Dermatology and Sexually Transmitted Infections.
“It really depends on the [evaluators] when we can start this study,” said Saphonn Vonthanak, co-investigator of the study, charged with implementing the yearlong clinical trial of the anti-retroviral drug tenofovir on 960 female sex workers.
But Keo Tha, a representative of a sex workers’ union which has called for a boycott of the trails, dismissed NCHADS’ reasons for the delay as “an excuse.”
“I think that it is [delayed] because there are not enough sex workers participation in the study,” she said Wednesday.
The Women’s Network for Unity has called for the boycott unless trial participants are guaranteed medical insurance to cover possible complications for 30 or 40 years after the test.
Saphonn Vonthanak, however, said he believes NCHADS will be able to recruit enough participants.
“I am still very optimistic if our team…explains enough to the commercial sex workers…we will get support from them,” he said.
Khol Vohith, NCHADS community education coordinator, said Monday that researchers are awaiting approval from Westat, a US health survey company contracted to evaluate the tenofovir trial.
Westat reviewed the trial in May and will return in July, Khol Vohith said.
A separate study of an AIDS vaccine in Thailand has been delayed for more than a year because it could not gather enough participants, Thailand’s English-language newspaper The Nation reported Wednesday.
(Additional reporting by Kuch Naren)