Vaginal Gel Slashes AIDS Risk

Approach gives women some control over HIV prevention
By M. Morris,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 19, 2010 6:54 PM CDT
Blood samples from HIV tests sit in a hospital lab in Jakarta, Indonesia, July 8, 2004. Results of a South African study raising hopes for an anti-HIV gel will be presented tomorrow in Vienna.   (Getty Images)

(Newser) – A new gel drastically lowers the risk that female users will contract HIV and herpes during vaginal sex, marking a breakthrough in AIDS prevention second in significance only to an effective vaccine. "This is a potential game changer," an expert not involved in the research tells the Wall Street Journal. The colorless, odorless gel contains tenofovir, an antiretroviral drug already in use in pill form.

Worldwide, 48% of the 33 million people who are HIV-positive are women, but in Africa, where the gel was tested, that number is 60%. "This in combination with [male] circumcision in places where the epidemic is generalized could really turn the tide," a UN medical official tells the Washington Post. "I think the big challenge is to get confirmatory studies done quickly, so we can have no delays in getting a product to women."

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