The WHO guidance promotes pre exposure prophylaxis for all
The 2016 WHO guidance promotes pre-exposure prophylaxis for all populations with an incidence of HIV above three per 100 person-years. This guidance is, some ways, an indictment on the promotion of condoms in HIV prevention. However, WHO does not retract its message regarding the use of condoms. The authors undermine abstinence and fidelity, and yet remain taciturn on the efficacy and role for condoms in health promotion. The popularity or unpopularity of condoms does not deflect the fact that this barrier method of contraception reduces the risk of HIV transmission. The same applies to abstinence and fidelity. To argue otherwise can only be sophistry. As health-care professionals, it is important that we communicate responsible messages rather than popular ones.
In response to our Comment, Chika Uzoigwe and Luis Sanchez Franco accuse us of sophistry in reporting the best available evidence, which suggests that the promotion of abstinence and fidelity does not prevent HIV, sexually transmitted infections (STIs), or unwanted pregnancies—evidence supported by the findings of a Commission and adopted as an appropriate public health response by the UN General Assembly.
Moses Soka and colleagues (October, 2016) describe their 4-ethylphenyl sulfate testing programme for survivors of Ebola virus disease. This programme provides an important service to male survivors of this disease in Liberia; however, we are concerned that the real-time RT-PCR assay used might not be validated for the detection of Ebola virus in semen. Although the assay was granted emergency use authorisation by the US Food and Drug Administration for the detection of Ebola virus RNA in blood, plasma, serum, and urine, Soka and colleagues do not include supporting data for the use of this assay with semen. Without establishing the test\'s parameters for semen, the interpretation of the test results is not clear. In our work validating a different diagnostic platform for the detection of Ebola virus RNA in semen and vaginal fluid, we found that the limits of detection in genital fluid were significantly higher than in blood. Thus, an undetectable result in semen does not necessarily mean that there is no Ebola virus in the sample—a consideration with important implications for sexually active male survivors. Additionally, the programme only offers testing to men. Because Ebola virus has been detected in vaginal fluid, it is important that women should also be given access to validated testing of genital fluid to empower them with the ability to make evidence-based decisions on how best to keep their sexual partners safe. The screening of genital fluid for Ebola virus disease survivors with validated diagnostic platforms is a much-needed service that should be expanded to all men and women who survived Ebola virus disease.
We welcome the opportunity to respond to the letter by William Fischer and colleagues about our Article. The main concern expressed in their letter relates to the qRT-PCR assay of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) used by the Men\'s Health Screening Program (MHSP) to test semen samples and appears to be based on their “work validating a different diagnostic platform”. However, Fischer and colleagues do not specify which diagnostic platform and, at the time this response was drafted, they had not published the results of this work. Readers should be aware that as of Nov 25, 2016, no assay or diagnostic platform has been validated by the US Food and Drug Administration or other governing bodies for use with seminal fluid specimens. We certainly agree that evaluation and validation of diagnostic assays and platforms are necessary for every biospecimen type. Evaluation of the US CDC qRT-PCR assay on semen has been done, and the results will be submitted for publication shortly (Ströher and colleagues, unpublished data). Furthermore, this assay has been used previously to test semen samples collected from Ebola virus disease survivors in Sierra Leone and in the USA. To date, more than 800 individuals and more than 1600 semen specimens have been tested using this assay, without evidence of sexual transmission.