A new vaginal gel created using the AIDS drug tenofovir has been shown to prevent the spread of HIV in South African women. In the study, a woman’s chances of getting HIV from an infected partner were cut in half due to use of the “breakthrough” gel.
While people are hesitant to jump to conclusions, this could be a huge step in the fight against AIDS. Currently, there are more than 33 million people around the world living with AIDS. Two million people died from AIDS in 2008. The potential benefits of the gel could be astronomical. In South Africa, the gel could prevent 1.3 million infections and 826,000 deaths over the next two years. The lead researcher on the study, Dr. Salim Abdool Karim, presented his results at this year’s International AIDS Conference.
The microbicide gel will need to go through further studies and prove to be at least 80 percent effective before it will ever be licensed in countries like the United States. As well as cutting in half a heterosexual woman’s chances of contracting AIDS, the gel also cuts in half the chances of contracting the herpes virus that causes genital warts.
The effectiveness of the gel at preventing the spread of AIDS is the second big advance in that area in the past year. Last year, scientists found that an experimental HIV vaccine cut risk of infection by 30 percent.