An eagerly anticipated HIV study returned disappointing results yesterday, crushing scientists' hopes that targeting the genital herpes virus could help reduce the transmission of HIV. Although the reasoning seemed sound—having herpes boosts a person's contraction risk nearly threefold, so targeting herpes should combat HIV infection—the study found no benefit at all, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.
"This was a huge setback for HIV prevention," said one researcher. The 3-year clinical trial used the herpes drug acyclovir to suppress the disease in patients across three continents, then compared rates of new HIV cases to groups given placebos. "Many people thought this was going to be a slam dunk," said the study's leader.