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Gel shows promise against HIV

Topical treatment cuts infection rates among South African women

A new vaginal gel is the first to show promise in preventing HIV infection among women, researchers report. If licensed, the gel could be an effective female-initiated means of HIV prevention, which is especially important in places like Africa where condom use can be difficult for women to negotiate.

“Now we have a product that can potentially alter this and save millions of lives by preventing HIV infection and preventing death,” says infectious disease epidemiologist Quarraisha Abdool Karim of Columbia University, who coauthored the study being published online July 19 by Science.

In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls account for about 60 percent of HIV infections. Currently, these women have no way to protect themselves against HIV if their male partners refuse to use condoms. Researchers have been working for over a decade to create a topical gel that women can use vaginally to prevent infection, but none has proven successful.

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