An antiviral drug commonly taken for genital herpes seems to suppress HIV, the AIDS virus, in people harboring both pathogens, a study in West Africa finds. The report bolsters the notion that the two viruses have some biological interplay and suggests that herpes drugs might slow the spread of HIV.
Researchers identified 136 women in Burkina Faso who were infected with both genital herpes and HIV. The AIDS virus hadn't depleted immune cells in any of these women enough to make them candidates for drug treatment, and none was receiving any herpes drug. The researchers randomly assigned half the women to receive the herpes drug valacyclovir in daily pills and the other women to get a placebo. Physicians examined the volunteers over the subsequent 3 months, taking vaginal and cervical swabs, and obtained blood samples every other week.