Stopping HIV on Contact

Gel shows promise in preventing sexual transmission of HIV

(RxWiki News) Last year, there was fanfare in the HIV/AIDS community when scientists created a vaginal gel to prevent HIV infection. Now, a group of researchers is making headway with a rectal gel.

A recently published study demonstrates the safety and effectiveness of a topically applied gel which contains a powerful anti-HIV drug in preventing transmission of the virus through the rectum. The scientists saw promising results in the phase 1 clinical trial, which tested the gel on rectal tissue exposed to HIV in a laboratory setting. The trial shows the gel's potential to prevent HIV transmission in real-life situations.

"A gel for preventing HIV could be on the horizon."

A microbicide gel is an important tool in stopping the spread of AIDS in places where people may not have the power to insist on using condoms during sexual contact.

This study is the first-ever trial of this type of drug for HIV prevention. It uses a non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitor called UC781. The gel was found to significantly reduce infection to exposed rectal tissue.

In addition to studying the effectiveness of the drug on tissue cultures, the scientists also found that the gel was well-received by human users. The participants of the study did not have HIV, but they tested using the gel at home, and reported its acceptability to the researchers.

Anal-receptive intercourse is the primary way that HIV is spread between men who have sex with men. But in fact, more women than men have anal-receptive sex worldwide. The risk of HIV transmission is 20 to 2,000 times greater with anal sex than vaginal sex, especially if there are other diseases present on contact.

The development of microbicide gels has until now focused on vaginal gels. Scientists had disappointing results until last year's success. A rectal gel has been under development for the past six years.

This particular micobicide gel was formulated for vaginal use, although it's being tested for rectal use. But a rectal-specific gel is also being created, and it will will begin clinical trials in January 2012.

The study was published in the online journal PloS One.

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Review Date: 
November 9, 2011