The big news at the conference on Tuesday was the announcement of an effective vaginal microbicide. Dr. Abdool Karim and colleagues from South Africa made the announcement to a very enthusiastic crowd. For the first time in the 30 year battle against AIDS, there now is some hope that women may some day be able to control their risk of infection.
In thus study, the researchers provided women in both an urban and a rural area with capsules of a gel containing 1% tenofovir. Other women received capsules containing a placebo. This antiretroviral drug is a nucleoside analog that has been well studies and shown to effectively reduce viral replication. Women were told to apply the gel intra-vaginally no more than 12 hours before having sex, and again no more than 12 hours after having sex. Participants were tested regularly.
After 30 months, women who used 1% tenofovir showed 38% reduction in HIV infections, a significant difference.
The researchers noted this was only a proof of concept study. Additional studies, examining doses, timing, and other factors need to be tested. But these first tests are exciting.