Chemical condom against AIDS?
During the World AIDS Conference, researchers are presenting a gel that is designed to minimize the risk of AIDS being infected.
(20.07.2010) For the first time, a gel is said to have proven effective against the spread of the immune deficiency disease AIDS. For more than 20 years, researchers had worked to develop an effective gel against the transmission of the HI virus.
Experts are now talking about a "chemical condom" that is inserted into the woman's vagina before sexual intercourse. The gel is intended to minimize the risk of AIDS being transmitted. In a study, researchers at the South African AIDS research center "CAPRISA" had already successfully tested the drug. The study showed that the risk of HIV transmission in women is reduced by around 40 percent. What is certain is that conventional condoms are by no means superfluous with this newly developed gel. The vaginal gel contains eleven percent the AIDS drug "tenofovir". Tenofovir is also used as a medicine in the treatment of HIV patients in tablet form.
Around 900 women took part in the study. The study was published in the US medical journal "Science" and is to be presented today at the World AIDS Conference in Vienna. The scientists point out that for the first time in 20 years of research, a breakthrough in this area has been achieved. Because none of the 11 studies in the last few years with six different microbicidal substances has so far been able to achieve effective protection against the HI virus. The study results of the South African AIDS research center "CAPRISA" were therefore presented almost euphorically.
During the course of the study, the subjects were divided into two groups of equal size. One group received the tenofovir gel and the other a placebo. All study participants were given detailed advice on possible risks of infection from AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases. In addition, all women were given sufficient condoms and were regularly examined and medically treated. As the researchers emphasize, the study was designed with "highly ethical standards", even if the course of the study appears morally reprehensible. After all, the test subjects who received a placebo assumed, despite the advice, that they had been given an effective "anti-AIDS agent".
After 30 months, 38 women who had received the "tenofovir" gel had contracted the immune deficiency disease "AIDS". In the group that had received ineffective money, a total of 60 women had been infected with AIDS. Converted to the study duration of the test subjects, there were 5.6 HIV infections per 100 years of participation in the active ingredient group and 9.1 in the active ingredient-free group. In purely mathematical terms, this reduced the risk of infection by almost 40 percent (39).
The women who regularly used the active ingredient gel during sexual intercourse, the infection frequency was even 54 percent lower. But even if the study results suggest that the gel has created a certain protection against AIDS, studies are still necessary to put the results to the test again. The authors of the study also see it that way.
Researchers hope that the use of the gel will give women "self-determined protection" in the future. So far, women have been dependent on whether the men use a condom or not. Because in Africa women can hardly persuade their male partners to use a condom. Because of this, AIDS mainly affects women in Africa. Around 60 percent of the newly infected are women. With the new gel, the scientists hope for a turning point and better protection, especially for women.
However, as mentioned, the study results should be viewed with caution. There was already a report that there was a completely new type of anti-AIDS gel. At first it looked as if the product "Pro 2000" could protect against infection. In a larger study with around 9,000 women, however, it turned out that the vaginal gel was completely ineffective. (sb)
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