Vaginal Gel May Defend Against HIV and Herpes

A new vaginal gel has been developed that appears to help reduce a woman’s risk of acquiring HIV or herpes. The Washington Post reports that after six previously developed gels failed in testing, Gilead Sciences has just released results of a study that indicate a new gel may cut HIV infection by up to 54 percent and herpes infection by 51 percent.

Science News reports Virologist Charlene Dezzutti from the University of Pittsburgh said, “It’s refreshing and good news – A 54 percent protection rate in people who have used the gel consistently is excellent. I don’t think any HIV prevention measures will ever be 100 percent effective. You’ll always have people who don’t use gels regularly, and some people who don’t absorb the gel as well as others.”

The study (see PDF) was conducted on about 900 women in South Africa who were instructed to use the gel 12 hours before and after intercourse, supplemented by other prevention methods.

The gel contains tenofovir, which is already used in pill form to slow HIV’s spread in the body. Infectious-disease epidemiologist Salim Abdool Karim, a coauthor of the study, suspects the gel’s success is from absorption into the vaginal wall and HIV-targeted cells.

Dr. Mamphela Ramphele told USA Today, “The winner in this is the woman who, for the first time since this scourge started, has a mechanism that helps her protect her body.” Dr. Mamphela Ramphele chairs the South African government’s Technology and Innovation Agency.

The results of the trial will be presented tomorrow at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna.


The Washington Post 7/19/10; USA Today 7/19/10; Science News 7/19/10; Science Express 7/19/10

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