A new study in China is examining how a new methadone substitute may reduce HIV transmission risk among injection-drug users, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports (philly.com, 5/26). David Metzger, a researcher from the AIDS Prevention Research Division at the University of Pennsylvania, is leading the trial, which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

According to the article, the drug Metzger is testing—Suboxone—is more expensive than methadone but has an easier withdrawal. It is therefore safer to prescribe to those recovering from heroin addiction. The trial will take place in the Xinjiang capital of Urumqi, where over 30 percent of injection-drug users are already HIV positive.

“We have a moral obligation to be in places where drug use is driving the AIDS epidemic, and Western China is one of those areas,” Metzger told the Inquirer. He later added, “If we can show that the use of this medicine during a one-year treatment program reduces risk behaviors and has a sustained effect on reducing HIV infection, that is our goal.”