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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, May 4, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 18
'Clean sheets' pill could help end HIV transmission
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'Clean sheets' pill could help end HIV transmission

by James Whitely - SGN Staff Writer

Male birth control. Aside from condoms and vasectomies, you're probably asking yourself why you never hear of this. Next, you might ask, why is it relevant to the LGBT community?

Still in the early stages of research, non-hormonal birth-control methods designed for men could make birth control for straight couples a lot simpler. Men could pick up the slack and women could finally stop taking the pill, with its plethora of hormonal effects that can cause nausea, dizziness, depression, and even decreased sex drive.

So why does this matter to us?

While it's true that Gay men and Lesbians would typically support straight women in this endeavor and advocate for something like this, one new method of male birth control, now dubbed the 'clean sheets' pill, could theoretically halt HIV transmission. However, it is important to note that as promising as this looks, it's all hypothetical right now.

The scientific minds behind RISUG, another male birth control method already patented in the United States but not yet FDA-approved, are working on the clean sheets pill.

The new pill totally inhibits the release of semen by relaxing the longitudinal muscles of the Wolffian duct system while permitting the circular muscles to contract. Thus, the circular muscles clamp down on the lax longitudinal muscles carrying sperm. All fluids are stopped before emission, and are recycled by the body normally.

It doesn't stop the orgasm; it just stops the release of fluid.

This obviously is going to turn off a lot of Gay men as a potential way to halt HIV transmission, but if the clean sheets pill is found after trials to work, not only could it serve as a temporary way to deal with HIV transmission, but it could lead to a permanent and more likeable solution.

Right now, Dr. Nnaemeka Amobi and Dr. Christopher Smith, the inventors of the pill, are looking into two different ways the drug could be delivered. The pill would be taken two to three hours before intercourse and would last 16 to 24 hours. Or 24-hour protection could be offered with a time-release implant, which wouldn't hormonally affect the user.

At its current stage, according to Amobi, he and his colleagues have 'modified the prototypes and expect greater than 95% efficacy.' After the next round of trials, they expect to reach 100%, but because of funding problems, they can't move forward at this time.

Money set aside for contraceptive research is very limited and most of it goes to female contraceptives. Big Pharma certainly has an interest in keeping it this way and the male alternatives, which appear to be much simpler, are having trouble finding funding.

Elaine Lissner, director of medical research at the Parsemus Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to advancing 'innovative and neglected medical research,' thinks the funding money could come from HIV research dollars.

'To contraceptive funders, this seems like just another male pill lead in a crowded field, but for HIV transmission prevention, there's nothing like it,' said Lissner. 'The yearly funding for HIV prevention absolutely dwarfs the funding for contraceptives.'

Lissner may be asking a lot by calling on HIV prevention groups to donate, but she thinks the research is promising.

If the research pans out, those looking for a solution to HIV would be getting a lot back, while giving a lot to the millions of straight women struggling with birth control. But unless male BC methods begin to attract more research funds, we'll never know.

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