Good News: Anti-Microbial Gel Cuts HIV Infection Rates for Women

By Andrew Moseman | July 19, 2010 4:59 pm

HIV virusThere was a big step forward this week in the struggle to contain the spread of HIV and AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa. Reporting on a three-year study in the journal Science, scientists at the Centre for the Aids Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) say that a microbicidal gel reduced HIV infection rates in women who used it by 39 percent over the course of the study. It would be the first time such a gel has proven so effective.

The researchers gathered nearly 900 women for the study who were HIV-free but demographically at risk for infection. Half received the gel, half a similar-looking but inactive substance. Among those given the gel, a vaginally-administered substance that contained an antiretroviral medication called tenofovir, infection rate fell by half after a year, and were reduced by 39 percent over two and a half years.

“This is very encouraging,” said Dr. Michel Sidibe, executive director of Unaids, the United Nations AIDS-fighting agency. “It can be controlled by women, and put in 12 hours earlier, and that is empowering. They do not have to ask the man for permission to use it. And the cost of the gel is not high” [The New York Times].

Though subsequent trials will of course be needed, these first results are especially inspiring given the predicament of women in some of these nations.

Women fall victim to HIV/Aids in disproportionately large numbers – 60% of new infections in Africa are among women. Many in the poorest countries have little education and suffer from very low status, so are unable to negotiate safe sex, using a condom, with their partner [The Guardian].

Salim Abdool Karim, one of the study authors, said the product would cost women “just pennies,” which is crucial because the effectiveness goes up with the consistency of use.

“Boy, have we been doing the happy dance,” Dr Karim, from the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban, said [BBC News].

Related Content:
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80beats: S. African HIV Plan: Universal Testing & Treatment Could End the Epidemic
80beats: If Everyone Got An Annual AIDS Test, Could We Beat Back the Epidemic?

Image: iStockphoto

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Health & Medicine
  • fatkid

    If 39% more women survive to breed, there will be so many more children born that we will have the same number of AIDS infected women as we do now, only lots more babies will languish in disparate poverty. I keep reading about innovations that lead to more and more people, yet it’s unsustainable population growth that poses the biggest threat to the future of us all.

    I reccomend birth control be sprayed from crop dusters! (not just over Africa- to be fair we can start with my own home town in Illinois.)

  • Mariana

    The hell with fatkid? Healthcare, and overall wellbeing will surely have a follow-on effect on population stabilization. The biggest threat to the future of us all is people who think like this: “if 39% more women survive to breed…” Seriously?

  • fatkid

    “Overall well being” sounds warm and fuzzy, let’s order some. I hope it comes with free tubal ligations.

  • Mary

    I wonder how much information the participants received before this study… The individuals who received the ineffective gel must have known that they were being tested for some sexually-related reason ( I’m assuming here that the microbicide was applied to the vagina).

    Could this have provided some participants with a false sense of security concerning sexual behavior?

    I couldn’t access the entire study online, so this issue could have been addressed in the experimental design… Very interesting findings, nonetheless!

  • amphiox

    Fatkid, it is well documented that when health indexes improve (ie, “overall well being”), fertility rates drop. This is particularly true when said improvements are associated with women gaining more personal control over their own reproductive processes – exactly as is happening here.

  • fatkid

    Here’s something cheap and empowering- condoms! Lotta good that’s done. The problems associated with overpopulation wont be cured with the next shade of Vagisil.

    Maybe trading Lambs for testes could enhance well being. I know when I’m feeling down, nothing puts a smile on my face like Mutton.

  • Lumpy

    Fatkid is a smartass but… Todays New York times online (free) has a related story citing a W.H.O. study that shows when poor girls are offered money to abstain from sex, infection rates for AIDS and herpes both decline. Birth rates go down too, and that’s in the poorest African countries.

  • amphiox

    Fatkid, perhaps you should lead by example and get yourself a castrated. I’m sure someone would be willing to donate a lamb to the cause.

  • amphiox

    Nothing says we can’t do both, Lumpy.

  • fatkid

    Hey, I have the sense your folks didn’t Amphiox, I chose not to breed. If people could make decisions to determine their own future, and the future of the planet, we wouldnt have to offer shiny things to kids to cross their legs.

  • Mer

    Fatkid is a troll!!!!!

  • megan

    Fatkid maybe a smart ass, but he’s correct in that just doing one thing that helps control over-population/disease while providing numerous and overwhelming benefits through cultural/economic themes and medical options to keep breeding pretty much ends in a stalemate and only lowers exponential population growth. 10Billion by 2050, is unacceptable and no one should get a pass due to poverty or wealth, status, race, religion or ethnicity. I too have made choices to not breed, especially when sexually active with the oppose sex. If you won’t catch HIV, sex education and programs to improve women’s health and family wealth are needed too, otherwise children are used as means of survival in poor countries for income apart from uniintended births.

    I’ve always thought if not for the forced euthanasia by 35yo, the crux of Logan’s Run was correct. Breeding should be regulated almost like a lottery and with sperm and eggbanks, it’s possible to save and store a lifetime’s worth of your gamete DNA for planned children with a spouse in a secure relationship or surrogate with approval. There’s no way in this world for anything like that to get developed and be absolutely fair and those wanting the ‘freedom to choose’ excessive breeding will fomment reactionary movements and such.

    But religions requiring only one man/woman and sex only for procreation, are attempting the same thing through enforced religious ideology instead of my imaginary China-like relegated artificial breeding. My way atleast men and women would be free to have sexual pleasure without fear of unintended pregnancy. It’s a given condoms, hormone treatments and anti-sexual disease policies still be available and followed.

  • fatkid

    Mer- trolls are either antivaxers, teabaggers, or live under bridges and eat babies. I, on the other hand, merely suggested using a crop duster as a quick fix for our Lemming like breeding.

    I am not the only person reading this that is sickened by the sorry state of man on this planet. We have already overtaxed Earth’s resources beyond recovery. If we pile on more happy breeders, our demise will only happen that much quicker.

  • byWilson

    I’d like to point out that some of us readers believe in God and have faith-and firepower for cropdusters trying to stop us.

  • Pedro Stookey

    You made some clear points there. I looked on the internet for the issue and found most persons will agree with your blog.


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