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A vaginal gel can reduce a woman’s chances of contracting HIV from an infected partner by 50%, according to US researchers.
A study in South Africa found the gel, containing the Aids drug tenofovir, halved a woman’s chances of getting HIV after 12 months of use. This fell to 39% after two-and-a-half years in comparison with a gel that contained no medicine.
The gel also reduced the chances of contracting the virus that causes gential herpes – HSV-2 – by half
The researchers said further studies are now needed to confirm the results but that they were optimistic about the protection the gel can offer.
“We are giving hope to women” who account for most new HIV infections, said Michel Sidibe, executive director of the World Health Organisation’s UNAids programme.
A gel could “help us break the trajectory of the Aids epidemic”, he said.
And Dr Anthony Fauci of the US National Institutes of Health said: “It’s the first time we’ve ever seen any microbicide give a positive result” that scientists agree is true evidence of protection.
The research has been published online by the US journal Science.
Copyright Press Association 2010