The International AIDS Conference, currently underway in Vienna, has some positive news to report in the fight against rampant spreading of the disease. Researchers announced their development of a vaginal gel that reduces a woman’s chances of contracting AIDS through sexual intercourse. Although AIDS is not the fairly immediate death sentence it once was in many countries, it is still a terrible epidemic in parts of the world. This can only be good news.
The gel, which contains the antiretroviral drug tenofovir, is both colorless and odorless. It’s inserted into the vagina (I’m visualizing this as a combination between tampons and Monistat) both before and after sexual intercourse, and the only side effect noted to date is mild diarrhea, which seems a small price to pay in the great scheme of things.
Women in South Africa who volunteered to test the gel cut their chances of contracting the virus by 50 per cent after one year of use and 39 per cent after 2 1/2 years, compared to a gel that contained no medicine.
The researchers also discovered that the gel cut in half the chances of getting HSV-2, the virus that causes genital herpes.
Scientists call the gel a breakthrough in the search for a way to help women whose partners refuse to use condoms.
“We are giving hope to women,” Michel Sidibe, the executive director of the World Health Organization’s UNAIDS program, said in a statement. A gel could “help us break the trajectory of the AIDS epidemic,” he said.
Mitchell Warren, executive director of the AIDS Vaccine Advocacy Coalition, called it a “historic day for HIV prevention research.”
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