Gel to block HIV spread raises hope
The much anticipated outcome of an HIV trial that assessed the effectiveness of "microbicide gel" in preventing transmission of the virus - from men to women - has shown positive results.
The findings show that the Pro 2000 gel, as it is called, prevents HIV infection by 30percent. The results of the three-year study, HPTN 035, were announced by the South African Medical Research Council in Durban yesterday.
The council's principal investigator, Gita Ramjee, said: "For the first time over a decade of microbicide research we have found a product that shows promise and suggests that the concept of microbicides for HIV prevention can be a reality.
"Although the results of the trial are encouraging, they aren't statistically significant. If we had reached at least 33percent in preventing transmission from men to women it would have made a bigger difference."
The HPTN 035 trial begun in February 2005 ended in September last year. It involved the studying of two gels - Pro 2000 and BufferGel - on their effectiveness in preventing HIV transmission from men to women. Some 3099 HIV-negative women participated at seven clinical research sites in Malawi, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe and the US. Two of the sites were set up in KwaZulu-Natal, regarded as the epicentre of HIV-Aids in the country.