Using a condom is still the safest protection against AIDS, United Nations health agencies said Friday after Swiss researchers claimed patients on retroviral drugs do not transmit the virus.

UNAIDS and the World Health Organisation said in a joint statement that they "strongly recommend a comprehensive package of HIV prevention approaches, including correct and consistent use of condoms."

Switzerland's Federal AIDS Commission published a report on Wednesday claiming that couples where one partner is HIV positive do not need to use a condom to prevent transmitting the disease, as long as retroviral therapy is followed regularly and has suppressed the virus in the blood for at least six months.

The claim sparked concern by AIDS charities who noted that the scientific research is focused on heterosexual couples and vaginal rather than anal sex.

"The real thing missing (from the Swiss advice) is about anal sex and getting a new sexually transmitted infection," said Roger Peabody of the London-based Terrence Higgins Trust AIDS charity.

"We don't feel the scientific evidence is conclusive and there are some key issues that are not covered in this advice," he added.

UNAIDS and the WHO said condoms were vital for a comprehensive HIV prevention package, along with fewer sexual partners, non-penetrative sex, and early and effective treatment for other sexually transmitted infections.

GENEVA, Feb 1, 2008 (AFP)


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