Microbicide Thought To Decrease Risk of HIV... Doesn't

LONDON—Although scientists had announced in February that a new lubricant, PRO 2000, had delivered, for at-risk women, "a small amount of protection ... by binding up the AIDS virus and preventing it from invading cells," a newer, more extensive study conducted between September, 2005 and September, 2009 showed "no evidence that it reduces the risk of HIV infection."

The new study was the result of a four-year clinical trial among African women, conducted by the Microbicides Development Programme, a consortium of African and European research institutions. The study tracked the medical histories of 9,385 women, who besides the lubricant gel were given free condoms, counseling on safer sex methods and other sexual health advice.

The result? "It found that the risk of HIV infection in women who were given PRO 2000 gel was not significantly different than in women supplied with a placebo gel."

With the failure of PRO 2000, there are currently no microbicides or other topical preparations which reduce the risk of contracting HIV.

According to a report in the Times of London, the British government and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation have together donated more than £90 million (US$146,213,056) to support ten ongoing clinical trials of more sophisticated "second generation" gels, many of which contain specific antiretroviral drugs that have already been proven effective in decreasing the infectious capabilities of the HIV virus when taken orally.

"One of the possibilities is a gel form of Tenofovir, a drug that could also be taken daily in tablet form to prevent HIV infection," reported The Guardian (UK) newspaper. "But such gels or tablets would have to be given out through clinics with supervision, and there are fears that the virus could become resistant to them."

Women who wer part of the Microbicides Development Programme who became HIV-positive were afforded counseling and referred to local healthcare providers for ongoing care and anti-retroviral medications.