S African scientists find anti-H.I.V. microbicides for women

13:17, July 20, 2010      

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Two rigorous new studies by South African scientists have discovered ways to sharply cut H.I.V. infections among women and schoolgirls, according to the online Science magazine Monday.

Women and schoolgirls make up a majority of the newly H.I.V. infected in sub-Saharan Africa, the magazine added.

The results were achieved after years of disappointing trials of other microbicides that were ineffective, or even raised a woman's risk of H.I.V. infection.

The scientists have worked in two AIDS-devastated communities of the nation, one rural and one urban.

They say they have finally found some microbicides that show real promise after two decades.

The results show that women who used the microbicidal were 39 percent less likely over all to contract H.I.V. than those who used a placebo.

The vaginal microbicidal gel contained an antiretroviral medication widely used to treat AIDS -- tenofovir.

However, broader trials are needed to confirm the results as the gel was nowhere close to 100 percent effective, and scientists say it will most likely take years before the product is publicly available.

Dr. Bruce Walker, a Harvard Medical School professor, was quoted by The New York Times as saying "This is the first time that there's been a tool that women can use to protect themselves from becoming infected."

"This is very encouraging," added Michel Sidibé, executive director of Unaids, the United Nations AIDS 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."

In South Africa, 5.7 million people are H.I.V.-positive, the biggest number in the world and the government is eager to work on the issue.

"As soon as we're confident it's a safe and effective product, we should do our best to get it out," said Derek Hanekom, the country's deputy minister of science and technology.

Source: Xinhua/Agencies


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