HIV microbicide tested to prevent virus contraction in women

By Tiffane Stuckenschneider

Researchers are finding promising results in regards to the
safety of a known HIV drug called tenofovir being used as a
microbicide to prevent the contraction of the virus in women,
according to Reuters.

Microbicides are gels or creams that can be applied vaginally or
anally in order to prevent the spread of HIV.

Confirmation of safety is a step in the right direction for
developing a consumer product, but some still feel the need for
concrete evidence before they become loyal users.

“I would want to see the results to see if there were any side
effects or anything,” said first-year business student Wendy
Guillen. “It would need to be proven for sure before I used it on
myself.”

Carla Jackson, a health educator for Student Health Services,
said while the study indicates an important step has been made,
there is a more important aspect to test.

“None of the subjects in the study became infected with HIV,
which is a promising sign, but it still does not mean the gel is
effective at preventing HIV transmission,” said Jackson.

“Why? Because the study was too small, and was mainly looking at
safety and not effectiveness.”

The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health and
led by Sharon Hillier of the University Of Pittsburgh School of
Medicine.

It concludes that women do find the product acceptable for
personal use.

“We found that 12 percent of the women who used the gel said it
made sex more pleasurable, and none of the women said that the gel
made sex less pleasurable,” said Hillier in the article.

Just because the product has been regarded as comfortable for
women does not mean it will be a sure-fire hit, however.

Recently, another microbicide that had been confirmed as safe
was found to be unsuccessful when it came to warding off
infection.

“Carraguard was determined to be safe but ineffective in a study
of over 6,200 women,” said Jackson.

In addition to the failure of Carraguard, two other microbicides
that were in the process of being tested were said to actually put
women at higher risk for infection.

Both the spermicide nonoxynbol-9 and a Canadian-made product
called Ushercell increased the likelihood of infection for
women.

Although researchers can now move on to the other aspects of
their investigation, such as confirming the reduced rates of
transmission in a larger study, Jackson said microbicides will not
be fool-proof.

“I think it is certainly possible that there will someday be a
gel that can reduce the risk of transmission of HIV, but it may not
be 100 percent effective,” said Jackson.

Others seem to share her skepticism.

“I would use that in addition to a condom, but not by itself,”
said first-year biology student Jessica Angel.

Like any reliable product, effective microbicides will take time
to develop.

“There will definitely not be anything like this available to
consumers anytime soon,” said Jackson. “I’d say we’d be lucky to
see something on the market in the next 10 years. It will probably
be longer.”

Safety, not efficacy, was the top priority of the phase II
clinical trial that focused on 200 sexually active, HIV-negative
women in the United States and India.

“The next step for the tenofovir gel will be a larger study that
tests effectiveness,” said Jackson.

HIV microbicide tested to prevent virus contraction in women

Jeanne Nelson/Poly Post

HIV microbicide tested to prevent virus contraction in women

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