A drug known as Compound Q that is distilled from a Chinese cucumber plant should not be viewed as a cure for AIDS - yet, according to the executive director for the People with AIDS Coalition of Utah.

"We at the coalition are very hopeful of the compound; however, we are advising all people living with HIV and AIDS to view this as a cautious breakthrough," David Sharpton said Thursday.The first test of the drug's effectiveness on humans has been under way at a San Francisco hospital since Monday. Depending on the results, Sharpton said Compound Q could be available to the public in as soon as nine months.

In the meantime, he warned those with AIDS not to attempt to medicate themselves with the drug, which is sold in health-food stores and often brewed into a tea.

Using the unpurified version of the drug has led to death in at least one case, causing blood clots that resulted in the heart attack of a California man, Sharpton said.

Compound Q is the common name for Trichosanthes kirilowii, a Chinese cucumber plant that has been used for centuries in China to induce abortions, he said.

Its use in treating Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome was developed by a California researcher, Dr. Michael McGrath, whose assistant was familiar with Chinese folk medicine.

In laboratory tests, Compound Q has been shown to destroy the AIDS virus. But Sharpton noted that azidothymidine, the drug known as AZT, showed similar promise before being administered to humans.

AZT, which Sharpton himself is taking to treat his AIDS, does not kill the AIDS virus in the human body. Instead, the drug inhibits the spread of the deadly disease.

"I am very hopeful about Compound Q. However, I was very hopeful about AZT," Sharpton said. "We're very leery about any drug being called a cure until research is done on it."

The test being conducted in San Francisco involves 50 people with AIDS. Half of them are being treated with Compound Q and the rest are being given only a placebo.