Page last updated at 07:48 GMT, Monday, 14 December 2009

Vaginal HIV gel fails to cut risk

African woman with HIV
Many women in Africa are vulnerable to HIV

A major trial of a vaginal microbicide has produced no evidence that its use reduces the risk of HIV infection in women.

The gel, PRO 2000, is intended for use before sexual intercourse to help reduce HIV infection.

It was tested in a trial involving 9,385 women in four African countries.

The risk of HIV infection was not significantly different among women supplied with the gel than in women given a placebo gel.

This result is disheartening
Dr Sheena McCormack
Medical Research Council

It was hoped microbicide gels would prove to be an effective way to limit the spread of HIV, as experts admit that condom promotion alone has not controlled the epidemic.

New ways of curbing the spread of HIV are badly needed, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly 60% of those infected with the virus are women.

Women are often forced to take part in unsafe sex, and are biologically more vulnerable to HIV infection than men - so in theory a gel they could apply themselves could be effective.

A previous, smaller trial suggested PRO 2000 could reduce the risk of HIV infection by 30%.

But the latest study, carried out by the Microbicides Development Programme, a not-for-profit partnership of 16 African and European research institutions, failed to find any positive effect.

And the researchers say the trial was large enough to provide conclusive results.

The women who took part were given the gel together with free condoms and access to counselling about safe sex.

Important result

Lead researcher Dr Sheena McCormack, of the Medical Research Council, which part-funded the study, said: "This result is disheartening.

"Nevertheless, we know this is an important result and it shows clearly the need to undertake trials which are large enough to provide definitive evidence for whether or not a product works."

Professor Jonathan Weber, from Imperial College London, who also took part in the study, said: "It is unfortunate that this microbicide is ineffective at preventing HIV infection, but it's still vital for us as scientists to continue to look for new ways of preventing HIV.

"Now that we know this microbicide is not the answer, we can concentrate on other treatments that might be."



Print Sponsor


SEE ALSO
'Anti-Aids gel' trial is stopped
01 Feb 07 |  Africa
UK funding for anti-HIV gel trial
05 Apr 05 |  Health
Gels 'could protect against HIV'
23 Mar 04 |  Health

RELATED INTERNET LINKS
The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

FROM OTHER NEWS SITES
Scotland on Sunday Online Dani Garavelli: Missing the trick - 13 hrs ago
New Scientist BMJ criticisms of Tamiflu questioned - 45 hrs ago
Mail Online UK Climate change will leave 100million more hungry this century, UN warns - 56 hrs ago



FEATURES, VIEWS, ANALYSIS
Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit

BBC navigation

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.

Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific