A ground breaking study at the 2010 International AIDS Conference in Vienna received a flurry of interest. Dr. Paul Sax, director of HIV and Infectious Disease Programs at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, reported the study’s findings in a video report to healthcare providers this month. In the CAPRISA (Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa) study, sexually active women used a vaginal gel containing the medication tenofovir, an antiviral drug, and were followed for 3 years. Researchers compared the rates of HIV infection in women that used the gel with those who received a placebo drug. “When you looked at the women who were most adherent to the intervention, they had about a 50% reduction in HIV incidence”, explained Dr. Sax. This finding is particularly promising for women in Sub-Sahara Africa where the AIDS incidences are extremely high. Up to now, most of the interventions devised to prevent the contraction of HIV have been in men. Dr. Sax continues, “These are women-based interventions that could prevent HIV, and it was very overdue.”
HIV and AIDS in women have increased since 2006
There are about 3000 people in Silicon Valley living with HIV/AIDS according to the Santa Clara County department of public health. Ten percent of those living with HIV/AIDS in Santa Clara County are women. There was a 24% rise in the number of women with HIV between the years 2006 and 2008. The predominant mode of transmission among women is heterosexual intercourse. The highest-risk groups were women between the ages of 30-49. Women who engage in unprotected sex with multiple partners are at highest risk.
The National Women’s Health Information Services, a division of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, has advice for women about preventing HIV.
· Limit the number of sexual partners or abstain from all forms of sex.
· Use a latex condom and understand the proper usage.
· Talk with your partner about HIV prevention.
· Get screened for sexually transmitted diseases as they may increase the risk of contracting HIV.
· Do not share needles.
· Contact your doctor within 24 hours of bodily fluid exchange with an infected person. Treatment with medication may prevent contracting the disease.
Although, the recent study is encouraging, further investigation will determine the practical uses of tenofovir gel and other new interventions in the protection of women against HIV here in the Silicon Valley. For more information on HIV prevention, visit The National Women’s Health Information Website at www.womenshealth.gov/hiv/prevention.
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