Procept, Inc., a pharmaceutical company in Cambridge, Massachusetts, has announced the development of a antiviral drug that has the potential to provide women with a more effective means of protection against HIV and other STDs than current available methods. PRO 2000 is a topical microbicide that forms a chemical barrier against the entry of HIV and other viruses into a woman’s cells. An odorless, tasteless gel containing PRO 2000 would allow women to prevent disease transmission even in situations where negotiation is difficult or dangerous. Clinical trials of the microbicidal gel on healthy female volunteers are underway in both Belgium and England.
The World Health Organization estimates that nearly half of AIDS cases are among women. One of the major problems in the prevention of further infection is the lack of effective, female-controlled protection methods. Though male condoms are effective in blocking the transmission of STDs, they are under the control of men, and women cannot protect themselves without first negotiating with a male partner. The recently introduced female condom is expensive and cannot be used without the partner’s knowledge. There is no method currently available that is completely under the control of the woman.