Scientists attending the Microbicides 2006 Conference have announced that a gel that would prevent the transmission of HIV could be ready for use by 2010. The availability of microbicides could be crucial in reducing the number of HIV infections by lessening women’s dependence upon their male partner’s willingness to use a condom, thereby giving them more control over their exposure to the virus.
The Conference’s co-chair, Professor Helen Rees, said, “It’s not always possible for people to negotiate condom use in many different circumstances … so there was obviously a need to have methods that were potentially hidden [and] could be female-controlled,” reports BBC. Researchers hope to make microbicides available especially to women in sub-Saharan Africa, who, according to the Associated Press, make up almost 60 percent of HIV infections in the region, most of whom were infected through heterosexual intercourse.
The AP cites research from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine that 2.5 million HIV infections could be prevented over just three years if 20 percent of all women in 73 different developing countries used microbicides. Reuters reports that five microbicides are nearly finished with clinical trials and, according to the AP, the research should be complete in two years, with the final products available perhaps as early as 2010, pending governmental approval.