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Gel may prevent HIV transmission

Results of a South African clinical trial show that a vaginal gel containing tenofovir may reduce the number of HIV transmissions by 39 per cent

Results of a South African clinical trial show that a vaginal gel containing tenofovir may reduce the number of HIV transmissions by 39 per cent, according to researchers who presented the findings at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna. Tenofovir is marketed in the US by Gilead as the oral pill Viread.

The researchers described the results as indicating that the gel may provide "moderate protection against sexually transmitted HIV."

The phase IIb trial, called CAPRISA 004, was the first clinical study to test an antiretroviral-based microbicide gel for the prevention of HIV, an approach that has the advantage that it can be controlled by women and does not require their partners' co-operation.

The placebo-controlled study tested a 1 per cent tenofovir gel, with one dose inserted up to 12 hours before sex and another within 12 hours after sex. The study enrolled 900 women at two sites in South Africa. The women were 18 to 40 years of age, HIV-negative, sexually active, and at high risk of infection.

The study data show that the gel also provided a 51 per cent protective effect against sexually transmitted herpes, a finding that has relevance to the AIDS fight, as people infected with herpes are more likely to acquire and pass on HIV.

The research was conducted by a consortium that included the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa (CAPRISA) at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in Durban; the US not-for-profit group Family Health International; and the US not-for-profit group CONRAD, which is focused on microbicides and contraceptives. The study was funded by the US Agency for International Development and TIA, a biotechnology agency of the South African government.

20th July 2010

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