Twenty contract HIV after taking part in preventative research

Dudu Busani

Dudu Busani

Twenty women who were participants in an HIV-prevention trial and contracted the deadly virus will be paid for their anguish.

The women, all from KwaZulu-Natal, have been confirmed to be HIV positive following their participation in a research conducted by the South African Medical Research Council and funded by a US-based non-governmental organisation.

The research was conducted at Westville in Durban, and more than 600 women volunteers, aged between 18 and 35, took part.

The participants were given a gel to insert in their vaginas an hour before engaging in sexual intercourse.

Researchers told them the gel minimised the chances of contracting the HI virus.

To this end, the trial subjects were paid R150 a month.

Council president, Antony Mbewu, said that though the volunteers were informed of the risks and signed consent forms before participating in the research, an insurance policy was taken out for each of them "in case something went wrong".

"We have contacted the women who have been infected and they will be compensated. We will also be providing them with medical treatment," Mbewu said.

Meanwhile, the Health Department has launched an investigation into all health- related researches and projects following this incident.

Health Minister Manto Tshabalala-Msimang yesterday tasked the national health research ethics council with investigating the matter.

"We have asked the committee that was overseeing the trial to make available as soon as possible all the information relating to the South African arm of the trial," she said.

Said Mbewu: "We followed all approved protocols during the trial implementation.

"All clinical trials were conducted according to the highest clinical standards."