New Vaginal Gel May Block HIV Virus

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HIV-virusAccording to CDC, African Americans are more affected by HIV in the United States than other groups. In 2010, African American women accounted for 6,100 (29%) of the estimated new HIV infections among all adult and adolescent African Americans. Studies also show that, if current trends continue, 1 in every 32 black women will be infected with the virus responsible for AIDS at some point in her lifetime.

Now there may be some good news: research is suggesting that a new antimicrobial vaginal gel may protect women from the HIV virus, even if it is applied several hours after sex.

In the study, the gel successfully protected five out of six monkeys from a hybrid simian/human AIDS virus when it was used three hours after HIV exposure, as explained by lead author Walid Heneine, a CDC HIV/AIDS researcher.

The same gel also protected two out of three monkeys when applied a half-hour before HIV exposure, according to the study, published March 12 in Science Translational Medicine.

Heneine notes that researchers are a few years away from human clinical trials, and that the results of animal trials may not be repeated in humans.

The gel contains a 1-percent solution of the anti-HIV drug raltegravir (Isentress), and works by blocking the ability of the virus to integrate its DNA into the DNA of animal cells. Once the gel is applied, the HIV cannot transmit its DNA into cells, the researchers say.

“The DNA degrades and the cell does not become affected,” Heneine said. Raltegravir has “been very effective in HIV treatment, and now we’re looking at it in prevention,” he added.

In the United States, the AIDS virus is mainly spread by having unprotected sex (sex without a condom) with someone infected with HIV, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Experts hope that once a product like this undergoes the necessary clinical trials and is approved, it can be used as an extremely-effective and easily-accessible HIV/AIDS prevention option.

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