Vienna: A vaginal gel that women can use significantly reduces a woman's risk of being infected with the HIV/Aids virus to a rate similar to how circumcision works with men, scientists said from a study done in South Africa.
The gel known commonly as microbicide was found to be 39% effective in reducing a woman's risk of becoming infected with HIV during sex and 51% effective in preventing genital herpes infections.
The women in the study were advised to use the gel up to 12 hours before sex and soon after having sex for a maximum of two doses in 24 hours. Participants used the gel for a minimum of one year and a maximum of two and a half years.
The research team says it observed no substantive safety concerns from use of the gel. No increase in risky behavior was observed in the women, said the researchers in their presentation at the ongoing XVIII International AIDS Conference in Vienna, Austria.
The development comes after similar Microbicide studies were halted last year in Rwanda, Uganda and several other countries after it was discovered women were getting infected.
In this latest South African study, the team used a microbicide containing 1% Tenofovir—an antiretroviral drug widely used in the treatment of HIV.
Tenofovir works by preventing HIV from growing inside human cells. Taken in pill form, Tenofovir is a common component of various three-drug cocktails that are used to treat HIV infections.
The research team said the successful gel will be a break-through for women as they largely have no control over sex. The gel could also be what has become of circumcision for men – which research has shown reduces risk of HIV infection to up to 60percent.
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