At the International AIDS Conference in Vienna, the latest buzz is all about gel. Two South African scientists with the Center for the AIDS Program of Research in South Africa, CAPRISA said that their research with an antiretroviral gel and women have shown some promising results. Women who used a vaginal microbicidal gel containing an antiretroviral medication widely used to treat AIDS, tenofovir, were 39 percent less likely overall to contract H.I.V. than those who used a placebo. Those who used the gel most regularly reduced their odds of infection 54 percent, according to a two-and-a-half year study of 889 women by Caprisa, a Durban-based AIDS research center. Attendees at the conference were thrilled to hear the news. UNAIDS Executive Director Michel Sidibe said “It is the first time we associate treatment products in the gels which can protect women up to 54 percent, which is amazing. Except for male circumcision, we never had, never, a prevention tool that can be controlled by women.”
The gel will be simple to use. Women apply the gel 12 hours before sexual intercourse and a second time, as soon as possible within 12 hours afterwards. The study also found that, in addition to reducing HIV infection by 39 percent, use of the gel also reduced the rate of infection of herpes simplex two by 51 percent. Women who have the herpes virus are more vulnerable to contracting HIV.
In DC, that could mean great news and a real shift in the fight against AIDS in women. According to the DC Department of Health 2008 Epidemiology report, 2.6% of African-American women and 0.7% of Hispanic women are living with HIV/AIDS. A woman’s susceptibility comes from her ability to produce more vaginal secretions than a man’s production of sperm and a greater surface area that is at risk for contamination. This gel could save thousands of lives in years to come.
For more information about the gel, visit www.aids2010.org and click on the CAPRISA Trial Abstracts on the right.