Studies Show Gel Helps Fight Spread of AIDS in Women

International medical groups are making progress stemming the spread of AIDS in Africa. But our medical community here at home needs to get a clue as well.

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It's great that international medical groups are making progress stemming the spread of AIDS in Africa. But our medical community here at home needs to get a clue as well and get on the vaginal microbicide bandwagon. HIV-AIDS is a worldwide epidemic, but in trials in Africa, where women have much less control over their own bodies than here in the United States, doctors are making headway against the spread of the virus. Today's New York Times reports on a new study on the efficacy of the antiretroviral medication. But there's nothing especially new about vaginal microbicides, a gel women can use on themselves well before having sex, which has been around for several years:

Women who used a vaginal microbicidal gel containing an antiretroviral medication widely used to treat AIDS, tenofovir, were 39 percent less likely overall to contract H.I.V. than those who used a placebo. Those who used the gel most regularly reduced their odds of infection 54 percent, according to a two-and-a-half year study of 889 women by Caprisa, a Durban-based AIDS research center.

Broader trials are needed to confirm the results, and it will most likely be years before the product is publicly available, but if produced on a large scale the gel would cost less than 25 cents per application, the lead investigators estimated.

If it's helping in Africa, as apparently it is, why are we not using it here at home? African-American women are the fastest growing demographic contracting HIV-AIDS, and protecting them should be at the top of our health agenda. According to the federal government's women's health Web site:

Today, women account for more than 1 in 4 new HIV/AIDS cases in the United States. Of these newly infected women, about 2 out of 3 are African-American. Most of these women got HIV from having unprotected sex with a man.