Sanday Chongo Kabange in MAZABUKA, Zambia
A Zambian traditional leader has fumed over reports that a number of his female subjects who underwent a microbicides gel clinical trials have contracted HIV, the virus that cause AIDS.
A group of volunteers that took part in a microbicides gel clinical trials in Southern Zambia contracted HIV, 12 months after the commencement of the trial.
Zambian authorities have remained mute over the development while officials from the Microbicides Development Programme in Zambia and United Kingdom are pains to explain what went wrong during the clinical trials.
Chief Mwanachingwala who presides over the affected site in Mazabuka of southern Zambia has expressed regret at the “leaked” results of the trials.
The traditional leader has claimed that the Microbicide Development Programme (MDP) enrolled illiterate and uneducated women who did not understand the nature of the clinical trials and its consequences.
He has refused to offer audience to local officials from research site lamenting that it is pointless for him to engage in dialogue with the MDP now that the outcome of the clinical trials “cannot be reversed”.
Area legislator, Garry Nkombo has also called for a suspension of the trials until an investigation into the latest scandal is conducted and concluded.
Chief Mwanachingwala has also since asked the Lusaka government to be careful when granting authority for any research that involves human beings.
PRO 2000, a vaginal microbicidesgel, had been hailed as the most promising microbicide in a decade of research on female-controlled prevention methods. The gel contains molecules that are intended to clump around HIV before it can penetrate vaginal walls. Results of a clinical trial published early this month found no evidence that PRO 2000 reduces the risk of HIV infection.
Details related to the disastrous clinical trials have been scant as officials from the research site are desperate to conceal events that have led to a scandal that has since been coded “gel gate scandal”.
Zambia is among the nine countries in sub-Saharan Africa highly affected by HIV and any intervention to scale down the spread of AIDS is received with full blessings of government.