Gel Decreases Risk Of HIV In South African Women

Researchers at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna announced that a vaginal gel can reduce a woman's risk of acquiring HIV by half. The study of almost 900 South African women looked at the effectiveness of a gel containing Tenofovir.

Scientists are one step closer to helping women protect themselves against HIV.

Researchers at the International AIDS Conference going on in Vienna say that a vaginal gel reduced a woman's risk of acquiring HIV by up to a half, in a study of 900 South African women.

Researchers laced the gel with an anti-HIV drug called Tenofovir.  Women were instructed to use apply it before and after sex.  Those who did saw their risk of acquiring HIV drop by 39 percent, compared with women who were given a dummy gel.  Women who used the gel most frequently had a reduction of 54 percent.

The study is being called a major advance in HIV prevention. It's the first to show that a vaginal gel can safely block the AIDS virus.

Scientists say proof of even partial protection is encouraging, particularly in a field that has seen little success in recent years.

Even so, researchers warn that the virus-killing gel is years away from mass production, at the very least. Future trials will have to confirm the gel is effective and safe.

Copyright 2010 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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