may have found a HIV
preventative gel, which contains an AIDS drug already on the
market, that could decrease a woman's chances of getting HIV in half.
It was announced at the International
AIDS Conference in Vienna, but further testing is required
to make sure the product is safe and effective.
has claimed 25 million lives total, and 33 million more are infected
by HIV. Of this total, two-thirds are from sub-Saharan Africa. In
this area, 60 percent of new infections develop among women and young
years, the only way to prevent
HIV infection was by the use of condoms and male
circumcision, since the foreskin contains cells that are "vulnerable
to penetration by HIV." But the latter only prevents HIV
infection in males.
study was led by Quarraisha Abdool Karim and Salim Abdool Karim from
the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa
(CAPRISA) in Durban. It consisted of almost 900 South African women
who were sexually active and between the ages of 18 and 40, where 444
received a placebo and 445 received the microbicide gel. It was
conducted in both the urban setting of Durban and the rural setting
of Pietermaritzburg in the KwaZulu-Natal province.
a three year period, these women were asked to apply the gel, which
contains a mixture of antiretroviral drugs and a one percent
formulation of tenofovir that interrupts the reproduction of HIV
in immune cells, with a vaginal applicator within a 12 hour
window before intercourse and within a 12 hour window after
intercourse. They were then tested for HIV on a monthly basis. In
comparison to the placebo group, those who used the microbicide
reduced the risk of HIV by 39 percent overall. For those who used the
microbicide more often, as directed, 54 percent of the risk of HIV
this gel, we may see 10 women becoming infected in a year," said
Salim Abdool Karim. "With this gel, we would see only six women
no major side effects were observed over the course of the study, the
gel did become less effective after 18 months of use, and researchers
are looking into finding out why. Right now, they believe it may be
due to the fact that 40 percent of the women "used the
microbicide less than one time out of two." Also, they will
continue testing the gel to make sure there are no long term side
effects that will exist beyond a three year period.
has been published in the journal Science and
could prove to be a vital part of finding efficient, preventative
ways to avoid HIV infection everywhere.